Well, the next time you visit your Wade Family Medicine, you may have to share a story of how much your loved ones enjoyed the sun this summer. However, because the month of July is national UV Safety Awareness Month, we thought it would be helpful to write a few points about this topic. We want all our patients and their families as well as Utah readers interested in healthy skin to read these tips on skin cancer prevention:
- UV: Ultraviolet light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that has a shorter wavelength than visible light but a longer wavelength than x-rays. It is about 10 percent of the light output that comes from the Sun.
Many patients ask us how much sunscreen is appropriate, especially for the prevention of skin cancer. Usually, if you trust a sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or more, then it can sufficiently protect your skin from the effects of ultraviolet light. However, think of the advantages of using a product with a higher SPF, it has a greater ability to prevent UVB from harming your skin.
How does sunscreen work to protect your skin?
As a partner in your health care, we are so glad that you asked. Sun screen works with your body’s natural ability to prevent damage from Ultraviolet burns (UVB). Imagine that you would go out in the sun, (and this number will vary from person to person), and your skin without any sun screen takes about 20 minutes to start becoming red. In theory, if you put on the SPF 15 product, it will protect your skin up to 15 times longer.
If 20 x 15 = 300 minutes, then you have about five hours of protecting your skin from reddening due to UV exposure.
How Much UBV Rays Does Sunscreen Filter Out?
According to SkinCancer.org, there are also benefits that SPFs offer which help our readers consider the value of using sunscreen for skincare protection. Here are the common protections that help with skin cancer prevention:
- SPF 15 filters out about 93 percent of the sun’s inbound UVB rays.
- SPF 30 filters out about 97 percent of the sun’s inbound UVB rays.
- SPF 50 filters out about 98 percent of the sun’s inbound UVB rays.
If these seem like they aren’t very different, they are only a few percentage points apart. However, someone who is very sensitive to light, who has had skin cancer, or who has a parent with a history of skin cancer, may want that extra protection. In effect, no type of sunscreen is sufficiently able to prevent all the harmful UV rays from penetrating your skin. If you have any questions, feel free to ask us. We will consider your medical history and current medications and help you determine how much exposure to the sun and how much SPF might be appropriate to protect your health. You don’t want to give yourself so much sun exposure that your risk factor for getting skin cancer is higher than normal. What’s more, people who regularly work outside or swim in an outdoor pool, for example, may need to wear protective clothing or gear to decrease their total UV exposure.
Some Problems with Using the SPF Model Alone
The sunscreen SPF model isn’t perfect, just because you use sunscreen, you aren’t fully protected. You need to reapply it every two hours, regardless of how high the SPF number is. Furthermore, when your skin is turning red, you may be witnessing your body’s evidence of the harmful UVB rays. There is potential damage to your skin, which could mean it’s time to wear protective clothing or get out of the sun. Finally, your skin might be sustaining damage before it turns red, which means your warning sign or redness isn’t a foolproof mechanism for knowing when to go indoors.