Care for the Skin You Are In

Having a “tan” has long been glamorized. However, a
tan is actually a sign of skin damage. The skin acts out of
self-defense and releases melanin, a pigment that darkens
the skin. With a lifetime of repeated exposure, including
sunburns, this damage can lead to premature aging and
possibly skin cancer. Approximately one third of adults get
sunburns at least once a year and more than one-half of high
school-aged students get serious burns.

There are two types of ultraviolet radiation that
penetrate the skin:

  • UV-B rays enter the top layers of skin and are most
    responsible for sunburns.
  • UV-A rays penetrate the deeper layers of the skin and
    are often associated with allergic reactions, such
    as a rash.

Tanning salons use lamps that emit both UV-A and UV-B
radiation — rays that can damage the skin and lead to skin
cancer. Oregon and Washington are the only states that
prohibit minors (under age 18) from using indoor tanning
devices unless prescribed by a doctor.

You can take steps to protect yourself from damaging UV
radiation that causes skin cancer.

  • Do not burn.
  • Cover up when outdoors.
  • Seek shade or use an umbrella.
  • Generously apply sunscreen.
  • Use extra caution near sun‑reflecting water,
    snow and sand.
  • Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds.

According to the National Cancer Institute, exposure to
UV radiation which results in a tan, whether from the sun
or from tanning beds and sunlamps, increases the risk of
developing skin cancer.

There are different types of skin cancer. Melanoma is the
deadliest since it is more likely to invade surrounding tissue
and spread to other areas of the body. However, melanoma
is less common than other types of skin cancer, such as
squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.

Did you know it’s a myth that only people with light or fair
skin tones are at greater risk? Although dark skin doesn’t
sunburn as easily as fair skin, everyone is susceptible
to skin cancer.

Enjoying the outdoors is still recommended, according to
Herschel Wallen, MD, a medical oncologist with Samaritan
Hematology & Oncology Consultants

“I encourage my patients to use a mineral-based sunscreen
(such as zinc) with a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of
15; wear loose fitting; long sleeves, pants or sun-protective
clothing; a wide-brim hat and sunglasses,” said Dr. Wallen
“The best way to be safe, have fun and prevent skin cancer is
to protect your skin.”

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