I recently came across an interesting statistic that says applying sunscreen regularly may reduce your chances of melanoma by 50 percent, in addition to reducing the early season sunburns that we regularly see during May and June. While I realize that I maybe go a little overboard with the sunscreen sometimes, I also know that I can’t be too careful in the sun, especially when it comes to my family. I know my husband gets tired of me nagging him to apply before he mows the lawn, even if he is only in the sun for 30 minutes.
I should not be alone in my worries about too much sun exposure: It is estimated that sun exposure causes 90 percent of all non-melanoma skin cancers in the U.S. alone and that it is the cause of 65 percent of melanoma skin cancers, which are the most dangerous form.
The Skin Cancer Foundation has stated that melanoma has been on the rise for the last 30 years. An estimated 76,250 new cases of invasive melanoma were diagnosed in 2012, with over 9,000 of these cases resulting in death.
What alarms me even more are the results of a 2010 National Health Interview Survey that found one in four melanoma survivors report that they never wear sunscreen. This statistic, by itself, is a cause of great concern and frustration to healthcare providers, who are constantly struggling with articulating the dangers of too much sun exposure.
If the melanoma statistics haven’t scared you yet, take some time to think about the non-cancer effects of the sun. Photoaging, or UV-induced skin aging, is another long-term result of sun exposure. While not threatening to life, it is threatening to quality of life.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, excessive unprotected time in the sun leads to premature wrinkling, sagging, a leathery texture and hyperpigmentation, so-called “aging spots” or “liver spots” that are really the result of sun damage. Now that alone is enough to make me seek shelter inside.
I think it is evident why we need sunscreen, but it is also important to choose the right type of sunscreen based on activity and skin type.
The Skin Cancer Foundation provides some great basic tips to help prevent sun mishaps from occurring and if you are looking for more information, the Skin Cancer Foundation website www.skincancer.org is a great resource to gain more sun smarts! Enjoy the warm rays of summer, stay safe in the sun, and be sure to consult your pharmacist for assistance and recommendations for selecting the right sunscreen based on your usage.
Dr. Shannon is an Ambulatory Care Pharmacist and owner of Lily’s Pharmacy of Johns Creek, named for her daughter, Lily, which will be opening this fall. Her areas of special interest include anticoagulation, cholesterol management, diabetes, heart failure and hypertension.