“About 86 percent of melanomas and 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays,” said Perry Robins, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation. “That’s why embracing proper sun protection is critical year-round. You’ll reduce your skin cancer risk and help prevent wrinkles, leathery skin and brown spots.” — Perry Robins, MD, president of The Skin Cancer Foundation
In Part 1, you learned important facts about skin cancer: the impact in the U.S., the three major types, and the risk factors — the ones you can modify and the ones you cannot modify. These facts give you a strong foundation for the subject of this article: protecting yourself and your children from skin cancer by reducing your exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which is the number one modifiable risk factor. Let’s get started.
So, how do you protect yourself and your children?
Avoid sun exposure (or use extra protection):
- between 10 am and 2 pm when the sun’s rays are most intense; and
- when at higher altitudes or near highly reflective surfaces such as water, sand, or snow.
Wear protective clothing when outdoors:
- sunhat with wide (minimum 3”) brim (no, baseball caps won’t do it);
- loose fitting long sleeved shirts and pants, made from tightly woven fabric in dark or bright colors;1 and
- large lensed sunglasses with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection.
Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater containing both UVA and UVB protection:
- apply at least 15 minutes before exposure;
- reapply every 2 hours or after sweating or swimming; and
- apply more of it than you probably do now and leave no exposed skin untreated.
- Note: Recently the American Academy of Dermatology clarified that an SPF lotion higher than 30 does block a higher percentage of UV radiation but does not increase the amount of time one can safely be exposed.2
And finally, seek shade
Five ways to make sun protection a habit
- Your desire to reduce your risk of skin cancer must be greater than any other competing desires.
- You probably need to buy some required protective gear. If your funds are limited, set priorities. Start by picking up the right sunscreen.3 Next get suitable sunglasses.4 And, if you don’t already have one, purchase a wide brimmed sunhat. You may find everything else you need in your closet. Limit your sun exposure until you own and use adequate protection.
- Ask a like-minded buddy for support and always allow for additional prep time to apply sunscreen before leaving the house.
- Study your routines related to going outside and link your protective gear (hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and cover-up) to an already existing action. For example, anchor your keys to your sun protection items so you won’t forget them as you leave the house.
- Put a sun hat and cover-up with your gardening gear (or with your dog’s leash) for the same reason. Be proactive! Assure you won’t forget to protect yourself from UV radiation.
So many directions! Let’s reflect on God’s word
During the time of Moses, the Israelites were directed to, among other things, protect their holy tabernacle with four coverings: first with linen, second with goats hair, third with ram skins dyed red, and last with badger skins (Exodus 26:1–14 NKJV). Their instructions were to shield the sacred dwelling place of God from environmental harm.
With the new covenant of Jesus Christ, you “…know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God.” (1 Corinthians 6:19 NKJV). So, just as the Israelites protected their tabernacle, their temple, we are to protect the new covenant temple, our bodies, from preventable environmental harm.
If each of us protects our own and our children’s skin and eyes from UV radiation — a major risk factor for all skin cancers as well as cataracts and other eye diseases — we reduce the risk of, and possibly prevent, skin cancer for ourselves and the next generation.
Now, let us pray
Dear heavenly Father, Proverbs 3:5–6 warns us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.” So we thank You for directing us to protect our bodies from harm and we lean on You to take from us any resistance — whether it be pride, outward appearances, inattention, or stubbornness. You know what’s holding us back. We seek to walk on the paths You direct. We pray these things earnestly in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen
In my next article, Part 3, I’ll address skin checks: why, how, and when.
Skin cancer testimonials
- A tan to die for. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2016, from http://www.news.com.au/national/a-tan-to-die-for/story-e6frfkx0–1111114248428
“I AM at peace.But if I could go back and talk to myself when I was 19 I would tell that girl not to use a solarium – that melanoma is not a small cancer that you just have cut out and you will be fine. I may pass in another week or it could be two. If I really fight it out, I may even have six weeks left.”
- I Didn’t Think It Could Happen to Me - SkinCancer.org. (n.d.). Retrieved June 9, 2016, from http://www.skincancer.org/true-stories/i-didnt-think-it-could-happen-to-me
"When she was 17, Donnar noticed a mole on her left calf. The mole was removed, and found to be a melanoma. The Indiana teen was shocked. I didn’t think it could happen to me, she said. I had read about skin cancer. I heard about the risks of tanning in sunbeds, but I thought it was sort of a myth.”
- Skin Cancer Testimonials Outdoor Based Business. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from https://www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/SkinCancer/Documents/KitsOutdoor-Testimonials.pdf
“I had a skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma. The cancer was cut out of my arm. I have had a lot of exposure to sunlight throughout my lifetime. During high school and college I worked as a lifeguard for at least four summers. I also enjoyed hiking and camping. As an adult, I’ve worked many hours outside related to hauling poles and transformers and installing electrical meters.”
- Skin Cancer Awareness Month Tips from The Skin Cancer Foundation - SkinCancer.org. Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.skincancer.org/media-and-press/press-release–2015/skin-cancer-awareness
What Is Sun-Safe Clothing? - SkinCancer.org. (n.d.). Retrieved June 28, 2016, from http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/clothing/protection ↩︎
Many people are using sunscreen incorrectly. (n.d.). Retrieved June 13, 2016, from http://www.digitaljournal.com/life/health/many-people-are-using-sunscreen-incorrectly/article/465985 ↩︎
Sunglasses: Healthy Eyes are Always in Style. (n.d.). Retrieved June 12, 2016, from http://www.aoa.org/documents/public/AOA_Sunglasses_Fashion-Function_8%205x11.pdf ↩︎
- Do you really need to reapply mineral zinc oxide sunscreen every 2 hours? It depends; read this: Natural Makeup Information - Dr. Bailey’s Skin Care Blog. (n.d.). Retrieved July 2, 2016, from https://www.drbaileyskincare.com/info/blog/post/how-often-should-you-reapply-mineral-zinc-oxide-sunscreen