It’s finally that time of year – Springtime! The snow has melted (mostly) and temperatures have stayed above freezing for a whole week! In Colorado, we are welcoming the sun after a looooooong winter. Living at a higher elevation means that the sun is stronger, which doesn’t usually bode well for my freckled, light-skinned complexion (I’m a red head….). For me, sun burns are way more common than they should be.
My history with skin problems should spur me to slather on sunscreen before I ever leave the house. But, I’m human and forget…probably more than I should. Starting at a young age, I had certain discolored spots on my skin surface. They were diagnosed as “Hutchinson’s freckels,” or lentigo maligna. Hutchinson’s freckles are discolored patches of skin that can turn into malignant melanoma – precancerous freckles. Since I was 8 years old, I have had 6 removed and get checked up every couple of years.
Melanoma is a very serious, and very common, cancer of the skin. Wearing sunscreen can significantly reduce the likelihood of developing many types of skin cancers. From the National Cancer Institute, here are some melanoma stats at a glance.
- Estimated New Cases in 2014: 76,100; Percent of All New Cancer Cases4.6%
- Estimated Deaths in 2014: 9,710; Percent of All Cancer Deaths: 1.7%
Percent Surviving 5 Years: 91.3% (2004-20100)
Number of New Cases and Deaths per 100,000: The number of new cases of melanoma of the skin was 21.3 per 100,000 men and women per year. The number of deaths was 2.7 per 100,000 men and women per year. These rates are age-adjusted and based on 2007-2011 cases and 2006-2010 deaths.
Lifetime Risk of Developing Cancer: Approximately 2.0 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with melanoma of the skin at some point during their lifetime, based on 2008-2010 data.
Prevalence of this cancer: In 2011, there were an estimated 960,231 people living with melanoma of the skin in the United States.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most common in skin that is often exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms. There are different types of cancer that start in the skin.
Melanoma is a disease in which malignant (cancer) cells form in the skin cells called melanocytes (cells that color the skin). Melanocytes are found throughout the lower part of the epidermis. They make melanin, the pigment that gives skin its natural color.
In addition to cancer prevention, sun screen can also slow down the aging of your skin, which can be important as you age. A New York Times article reported on a research study of those who used sunscreen daily versus those who use it often, but not necessarily daily.
People who diligently use sunscreen every day can slow or even prevent for a time the development of wrinkles and sagging skin, a new study found. Although dermatologists have long told people to use sunscreen to prevent aging, this is the first research to show an actual effect on the appearance of skin, researchers said.
The sunscreen element of the study impressed other researchers. Dr. David R. Bickers, a dermatology professor at Columbia University who was not involved in the research, said it “makes it clear that extensive, consistent use of sunscreen can alter a pattern of what would be an inevitable progression of photo-aging.”
Until now, he said, most studies of sun-damaged skin were conducted with mice, not people, and it was not clear whether the results would be the same.
There are arguments that the chemicals in sunscreen does more harm to the body than good, however, there are natural sunscreen options available or you can always get creative and make your own! (and if you do, post your recipe!!) Additionally, anything below SPF 15 isn’t doing you much good.
Whether it’s to protect your skin from cancer, from wrinkles or simply from pain from a nasty sun burn, sunscreen should be a daily part of your routine throughout the summer (and even beyond)….especially if you’re a Ginger like me.
This photo below displays how sunscreen protects your skin.