How do you know when you have been overexposed to the sun, and why should you care? This is something you should be asking yourself year-round. A sunny day is not the only time you can get burned, UV rays are always present, they just vary in strength depending on the time or place. In order to get a better understanding of the effect the sun will have on your skin, you have to pay attention to the UV index. This is the measurement of UV rays in the current environment, and it is what affects how quickly you can be overexposed. Caroline Praderio from Insider states, a tan is one of the signs that you have been overexposed to the sun. Along with feeling flu-like symptoms and getting blisters, there are more effects that you can feel on a short-term level. The long-term effects are a lot more severe, which includes increasing your risk of skin cancer.
Risking health for bronzed skin
The FDA considers a suntan to be an increase in skin pigment known as melanin. Melanin is what changes your skin to that golden tan color and is a sign of damage. After being overexposed to the sun, your skin reacts by changing color in an attempt to protect your skin from more damage. Tanning increases your risk of developing skin cancer due to the risk of getting a sunburn. As the FDA indicates, a tan does not protect you enough from the sun because it only has an SPF of about 2 to 4.
Dr. Stephen Q. Wang, MD talks more about the effect of UV exposure and tanning, answering the question “Is a tan ever a good thing?”. Dr. Wang explains that UV rays damage skin cells DNA, and repair enzymes are almost immediately activated. Cells that have irreparable damage, go through apoptosis (a controlled self-destruction). DNA damage or DNA repair signals the beginning of melanogenesis (the growth and spreading of melanocytes, which are the pigment cells where melanoma forms).
What is the difference between spray tans and tanning beds?
In order to compare the two different methods, let us break down each one:
Topical sunless tanners can be applied in a number of ways. Although we believe spray tans are the most common or most popular choice, it can be applied in a number of other ways such as lotions, gels, mousses, wipes, creams, and powders. The bronzed color coats the epidermis of the skin when applied. Among all the ingredients, the most common one found is dihydroxyacetone (DHA), this is the molecule that causes the change in the skin's appearance. Topical sunless tans will develop over 24 to 72 hours and slowly disappear after 3 to 7 days. Although this method is temporary, it does protect you from the dangers of overexposing your skin to the sun. DHA is FDA approved, but not for non-skin areas. Therefore, you must take precautions when using these products. Even though they are approved, the use of these products is limited and does not include spray tan booths. Side effects of DHA include rashes, cough, dizziness, and fainting. Too much exposure to DHA may increase your risk of pulmonary disease and cancer.
Opposed to this UV free option, is a method that exposes you to more risk of negative skin and health effects. Tanning beds or sun-beds are not safer than the sun, due to the fact that the lights they emit include UVA and UVB rays, the same rays that come from the sun and that cause cancer. The purpose of these machines is to produce that artificial tan look, using around 10-15 UV bulbs or lamps. The biggest users are women under 35 years of age, an age that faces the biggest risk from using this method. Using tanning beds at a young age increases the user's likelihood of skin cancer, giving those under 35 years old a 75% increased risk of getting melanoma. Although users in this age group are more at risk, older age groups also increase their risk of skin cancer on average by 20%.
There are different ways that you can get the tanned look, but are you willing to face the risks of the option you choose? If you do, we recommend you opt for the safest option which is topical self-tanners. There are sure to be many different kinds of tanners, and you can choose the ones that have the least damaging chemicals.
Tanning and the beauty industry
If you assume women are more likely to have skin cancer, you are not alone. We believed that the Western beauty industry's idea of tanning would cause women to seek that look and therefore partake in sun damaging activities to achieve it. However, the bronzed look was not always the ideal look, pale skin was once common among the upper class. Before the industrial revolution, outdoor workers or those who worked in the fields were the ones that had the dark skin look. In order to differentiate themselves from them, upper-class men and women maintained a pale aesthetic. With time this changed, and the tanned look became more common among different class types. However, popularity for that tanned look was sought after when the media showcased Coco Chanel in 1923 with her tan look after a vacation. After this photo of the famous fashion designer, tanned skin became trend-like. After this, clothing and cosmetics followed by making products that encouraged this practice. The trend of tanned skin has still not disappeared, many people still partake in tanning practices. The tanning industry has grown over the past 5 years up to 2018, calculating a total of $3bn in revenue. However, as regulations get stricter safer sunless tanning options are being provided.
Who is more likely to get skin cancer?
According to Statista, the number of U.S. skin cancer cases in 2018 by gender indicates that 55,150 males have gotten skin cancer compared to 36,120 women. Based on this statistic the difference between gender results in a total of 19,030 of cases, what is the reason for this difference? As stated by the American Academy of Dermatology, melanoma affects men more than women, so much that at 65 years men are 2 times more likely and by 80 years old are 3 times more likely. Furthermore, when analyzing the reasons men have a higher incidence of melanoma, a few variables were found.
Reasons that men are more likely to have melanoma may be due to:
1. Less knowledge about skin cancer. Therefore, not understanding how to stay safe in the sun can be a big factor that causes men to not practice preventative care
2. Men are less prone to have a skin routine that allows them to practice preventative skin cancer methods
3. Skin type between men and women differ. Men have thicker skin with less fat underneath and have more collagen. These factors make men more prone to UV skin damage.
4. Men’s skin is more affected by UV rays and has a lower ability to repair the damage
Lowering your risk of skin cancer can be improved with easy steps such as using preventative care. This includes sunscreens, hats, UPF clothing and much more. Implementing these sun safe methods into your daily routine can make a large difference, it is the process of remembering to use them on a daily basis that might be the challenge.
Skin cancer awareness
Learning about skin cancer is a great first step toward improving skin care practices. Preventative care is important and can lead you to lower your chances of getting skin cancer. When your body does not repair DNA damage inside skin cells, they divide and grow and these cells cause skin cancer. A few factors can affect this damage to occur, such as genetics, skin type and overexposure to UV rays. The main cause is overexposure to UV light, and the leading producer of this is the sun.
Skin cancer has increased over the years, Elizabeth Siegel from Allure notes that over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all the other cancers combined and Melanoma is third leading cancer under 49 years old.
Do you feel confident with your knowledge of skin cancer? If you want to learn more, we are here to provide you with helpful information.
Look out for these precancerous skin lesions:
- Actinic Keratosis (Solar Keratosis): Small and scaly patches.
- Actinic Cheilitis (Farmer’s lip): Scaly patches or roughness that usually appears on the lower lips.
- Cutaneous Horns: A funnel-shaped from a red base on the skin.
- Dysplastic Nevi (Atypical Moles): abnormal or atypical moles that are irregularly shaped, has many colors, or are larger than normal.
A great way to check your moles is by following the ABCDE’s of Melanoma
What are the types of skin cancer? As Lisa Fayed states, skin cancer is divided into two categories which include melanoma and non-melanoma skin:
- Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC): The most common type of skin cancer.
- Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC): The second most common type of skin cancer
- Melanoma: The deadliest form of skin cancer.
If you would like to see images of these, in order to know what to look for when checking your skin, click the link to access a slideshow with relevant images WebMD.
According to the Global Cancer Statistics for the most common cancers released by the World Cancer Research Fund, Melanoma is in the top 20 of common cancers globally for both men and women. In 2018, a total of 287,723 new cases were diagnosed globally. In the United States, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Should you limit your time in the sun?
Of course not! The sun provides many benefits that are very important to our bodies. Among the most important is the production of vitamin D. UV radiation from the sun causes your body to react with a production of vitamin D. This vitamin is very important for your body, as it can promote bone growth and decrease your likelihood of illness.
Another interesting study found that good vitamin D levels are linked to a decrease in melanoma. According to the Natural Medicine Journal, the patients in the study that had a vitamin D deficiency were more likely to have a higher stage of disease and mortality rate. Another interesting find in the study compared the results from patients with metastatic melanoma and low vitamin D levels. Both took vitamin D supplements, but those who took vitamin D supplements less than a certain amount resulted in a worse diagnosis than the others who took a large amount of vitamin D.
While spending time in the sun has its benefits, there are still dangers to overexposure. If you seek that bronzed, look there are more ways that you can achieve it. Seek out healthy alternatives to tanning such as fake tanners/spray tans. We encourage healthy sun-safe practices, and while having tanned skin is still a beauty standard, we hope that the risk of serious skin damage will incentivize you to be more cautious.
If you are concerned about the dangers of overexposure, Stella Wearables is your solution. The Stella M1 wristband will monitor these aspects of your life. Stella M1 has UV tracking technology, letting you know how long you should be in the sun based on your skin type. This technology will help you check how close you could be to being overexposed to the sun, and decrease your risk of getting dangerous skin damage. Much more features are available, and if you are interested in learning more make sure you review the collections at www.stellawearables.com/collections.