Everyone knows the sun’s rays can cause premature aging skin and skin cancer. But the devil is in the details. Let’s see how much you know.
SUN MYTHS VS. FACTS
MYTH OR FACT?
1. One bad sunburn in childhood raises your skin cancer risk. MYTH or FACT?
2. People with darker skin don’t get sunburned or skin cancer. MYTH or FACT?
3. Skin cancer only grows on parts of the body that were exposed to the sun. MYTH or FACT?
4. Indoor tanning is bad for you because you can become SPF-resistant. MYTH or FACT?
5. A base tan can help protect your skin from the sun. MYTH or FACT?
6. Makeup can help protect your skin from the sun. MYTH or FACT?
7. Window glass protects your skin from harmful UVB rays. MYTH or FACT?
8. Dark colored clothes protect you from the sun’s rays better than light ones. MYTH or FACT?
9. Dark sunglasses block more UV rays than light lenses. MYTH or FACT?
10. Medications can affect how sensitive you are to UV rays. MYTH or FACT?
11. Melanoma in women is often seen on the back and legs. MYTH or FACT?
12. At temperatures below 50º Fahrenheit, UV rays become weaker. MYTH or FACT?
1. FACT. Kids are at high risk in the sun because they have thinner skin, so it’s easier for them
to get sunburned. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight, and protected by hats and clothes when outdoors.
2. MYTH. People with dark skin get both sunburned and skin cancer. It’s not as noticeable because their skin color hides it.
3. MYTH. Skin cancers can grow anywhere on the body.
4. MYTH. Indoor tanning (especially the UVB beds!) is bad for you, because it gives you the the skin cancer ray (UVB) along with the aging ray (UVA).
5. MYTH. Any kind of tan means damaged skin and will speed the skin’s aging process. It also raises your risk for skin cancer.
6. FACT. Makeup can help protect your skin from the sun, if you use the kind that contains SPF, and skip high-gloss lipstick. The total amount of SPF on exposed skin should be 30, or more.
7. FACT. But window glass does not protect you from harmful UVA rays, which is why you should always use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day —even when you don’t go out.
8. FACT. UV rays pass through lighter colored fabrics more easily. To block the most rays, wear deep blue, black, or bright solids like orange and red.
9. MYTH. Both work equally well. Look for labels that say “meets ANSI UV Requirements” or “UV absorption up to 400 nm.” The right sunglasses are important, because up to 1 in 10 skin cancers
are in the eyelid area. Sun can also increase the risk of cataracts, macular degeneration, keratitis, and cancers of the eye.
10. FACT. A number of meds can make you more sensitive to the sun. If you are on medication of any kind, consult your doctor about possible sun sensitivity.
11. FACT. Melanoma tends to show up on the lower legs and upper backs for women.
12. MYTH. UV rays are not affected by temperature. UV radiation affects unprotected body parts all year round. The head and neck area especially need broad-spectrum protection of 30 SPF or more, 365 days of the year.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN UVA AND UVB
UVA accounts for 95% of UV rays. They are less intense than UVB rays, but 30 to 50 times more prevalent. Present during all daylight hours
all year long, they penetrate both clouds and glass. They penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays, and play a major role in aging skin and damaging cells in the basal layers of epidermis, where most skin cancers occur. UVA is the dominant tanning ray in tanning salons or on the beach.
UVB is the main cause of skin reddening and sunburn, and damaging the skin’s upper epidermal layers. It plays a key role in the development of skin cancer and also contributes to tanning and photoaging. It’s intensity varies by season, location, and time of day. Although most UVB rays hit the U.S. between 10AM and 4PM from April to October, they can also damage skin year-round, especially at high altitudes and on reflective surfaces like snow, ice, or water.
WAYS TO BE SAFER IN THE SUN
Protect yourself from UV radiation, indoors and out, all year round. Use only a broadbased sunscreen with an SPF or 30 or more, daily (be sure to reapply, as recommended on the bottle). Always seek the shade outdoors, especially between 10AM and 4PM. Consider adding flat, tinted UV-protective film to your car’s side and rear windows. This film blocks up to 99.9% of UV radiation, and lets in up to 80% of visible light. Outdoors, dress to limit UV exposure. Buy laundry additives that can be washed right into your clothing to give you even more sun protection.
This article has been reviewed by Dr. Amy Wolthoff, dermatologist.