THE SUN

Some Statistics

3,500,000

Approximate number of skin cancer cases diagnosed in the U.S. each year

76,380

About 76,380 new melanomas will be diagnosed (about 46,870 in men and 29,510 in women) in the U.S. each year

10,130

About 10,130 people are expected to die of melanoma (about 6,750 men and 3,380 women) in the U.S. each year

1 in 5

Approximately 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime

YOUR SKIN

Frequently Asked Questions About Your Skin

SUNSCREEN

Frequently Asked Questions About Sunscreen

SKIN CANCER

Frequently Asked Questions About Skin Cancer

UV RADIATION

Frequently Asked Questions About
UV Radiation

YOUR SKIN

Your skin, the largest organ of the human body, has many functions:

  • Covering the internal organs and protecting them from injury
  • Serving as a barrier to germs such as bacteria
  • Preventing the loss of too much water and other fluids
  • Regulating body temperature
  • Protecting the rest of the body from harmful UVA/UVB rays
  • Helping the body make vitamin D

SUNSCREEN

Who Needs Sunscreen?:

    According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, nearly everyone needs sunscreen, which prevents skin cancer by protecting your skin from the sun's harmful UVA/UVB rays. Anyone can get skin cancer, regardless of age, gender or race. In fact, an estimated one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

What Sunscreen Should I Use?:

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends everyone use a sunscreen that offers the following levels of protection:
  • Broad spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher
  • Water resistance
A sunscreen product with these qualities, such as Vertra's line of "Elemental Resistance" products, helps protect your skin from sunburn, early skin aging and skin cancer. However, sunscreen alone cannot fully protect you. In addition to sunscreen, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends taking the following steps to protect your skin:
  • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Get Vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements. While your body requires the UV rays from the sun to generate Vitamin D, never seek the sun.
  • Avoid tanning beds. UV light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling.
  • Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer is often treatable when caught early.

When Should I Use Sunscreen?

    According to the American Academy of Dermatology, sunscreen should be worn every day that you will be outside exposed to the sun, which emits harmful UV rays year-round. Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of harmful UVA/UVB rays from the sun can penetrate your skin. Snow, sand and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun's rays.

How Much Sunscreen Should I Use and How Often?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, the amount of sunscreen you use should be determined by a number of factors, including:
  • Use enough sunscreen to generously coat all skin that will be not be covered by clothing. Ask yourself, “Will my face, ears, arms or hands be covered by clothing?” If not, apply sunscreen. Most people only apply 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen: we recommend you generously apply your sunscreen.
  • Follow the guideline of “1 ounce, enough to fill a shot glass,” which dermatologists consider the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body. Adjust the amount of sunscreen applied depending on your body size.
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15 minutes BEFORE going outdoors.
  • Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Re-apply sunscreen approximately every two hours, or after swimming or sweating, according to the directions on the bottle.

Broad Spectrum Sunscreens Protect Against Both UVA and UVB rays. What is the Difference Between UVA and UVB Rays?

Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth: UVA rays and UVB rays. Overexposure to either can lead to skin cancer. In addition to causing skin cancer, these rays also:
  • UVA rays (or aging rays) can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.
  • UVB rays (or burning rays) are the primary cause of sunburn and may be blocked by window glass.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the World Health Organization's International Agency of Research on Cancer have declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as known carcinogens (cancer-causing substance). There is typically no safe way to tan. Every time you tan, you are in danger of damaging your skin. As this damage builds, you speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.

Who Regulates Sunscreens?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates sunscreen products as over-the-counter drugs. The FDA has several safety and effectiveness regulations in place that govern the manufacture and marketing of all sunscreen products, including safety data on ingredients.

How do FDA Sunscreen Guidelines affect my Sunscreen?

Thanks to a 2011 FDA ruling, sunscreen labels now provide more information about what type of UV protection a sunscreen offers and what a sunscreen can do. On the label, you'll see whether the sunscreen:
  • Is broad spectrum, which means the sunscreen protects against UVB and UVA rays and helps prevent skin cancer and sun burn;
  • Has an SPF of 30 or higher. While SPF 15 is the FDA's minimum recommendation for protection against skin cancer and sunburn, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30;
  • Has a Skin Cancer/Skin Aging Alert in the Drug Facts section of the label, which means the sunscreen will only prevent sunburn and will NOT reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging;
  • Is Water Resistant (effective for up to 40 minutes in water) or Very Water Resistant (effective for up to 80 minutes in water; these labels mean the sunscreen provides protection while swimming or sweating up to the time listed on the label.
Sunscreen manufacturers can no longer claim that a sunscreen is “waterproof” or “sweat proof,” as the FDA has determined that those terms are misleading. Even when using a water-resistant sunscreen, you should reapply after getting out of the water or after sweating.

Are Sunscreens Safe?

Scientific evidence supports the benefits of using sunscreen to minimize short-term and long-term damage to the skin from the sun's rays. Using sunscreen, seeking shade and wearing protective clothing are all important behaviors to reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Is a High-Number SPF Better than a Low-Number SPF?

Most dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun's rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun's rays, but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun's rays. Currently, there is not any scientific evidence that indicates using a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 50 can protect you better than a sunscreen with an SPF of 50. Importantly, one must remember that high-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs. A high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without re-application. All sunscreens should be applied approximately every two hours or according to time on the label, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.

SKIN CANCER

Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, where doctors diagnose more cases every year than all other cancers combined. The number of skin cancer cases has been going up over the past few decades. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to UV rays. Most of this exposure comes from the sun, but some may come from man-made sources, such as indoor tanning beds and sun lamps. Fortunately you can do a lot to protect yourself and your family from skin cancer through early detection. X-rays and blood tests are not needed to detect skin cancer early just your eyes and a mirror. If you have skin cancer, early detection is the best way to ensure successful treatment of the disease.

What is Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer starts in the cells of the skin. Some other types of cancer start in other parts of the body and can spread to the skin, but these are not skin cancers.

There are 3 main types of skin cancers:
  • Basal cell skin cancers (basal cell carcinomas)
  • Squamous cell skin cancers (squamous cell carcinomas)
  • Melanomas

How Many People Get Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. About 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. each year. According to the American Cancer Society, melanoma, a more dangerous type of skin cancer, accounted for roughly 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015.

What are Basal and Squamous Cell Skin Cancers?

Basal and squamous cell skin cancers are by far the most common cancers of the skin. Both are found mainly on parts of the body exposed to the sun, such as the head and neck. These cancers are strongly related to a person's sun exposure.

According to the American Cancer Society, basal and squamous cell cancers are much less likely than melanomas to spread to other parts of the body and become life threatening. Still, it's important to find and treat them early. If left alone, they can grow larger and invade nearby tissues and organs, causing scarring, deformity, or even loss of function in some parts of the body. Some of these cancers (especially squamous cell cancers) can spread if not treated, and in some cases they can be fatal.

What is Skin Melanoma?

Melanomas develop from melanocytes, the cells that make the brown pigment that gives skin its color. Melanocytes can also form benign (non-cancerous) growths called moles. (Your doctor might call the mole a nevus.)

Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, but are more likely to start in certain areas. The most common place for men to find melanoma is the trunk (chest and back) while women more often have melanomas on the legs. The neck and face are other common places for melanoma to start.

Melanomas are not as common as basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but they can be far more serious. Like basal cell and squamous cell cancers, melanoma is almost always curable in its early stages. But left alone, melanoma is much more likely to spread to other parts of the body, where it can be very hard to treat.

What are the Other Skin Cancers?

There are many other types of skin cancers as well, but they are much less common:
  • Merkel cell carcinoma
  • Kaposi sarcoma
  • Cutaneous (skin) lymphoma
  • Skin adnexal tumors (tumors that start in hair follicles or sweat and oil glands)
  • Various types of sarcomas
Together, these types account for less than 1% of all skin cancers. It's important for doctors to tell the types of skin cancer apart, because they are treated differently. It's also important for you to know what skin cancers look like. This can help you find them at the earliest possible stage, when they are cured most easily.

What are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer?

  • Too much exposure to UV radiation (from sunlight or tanning beds and lamps)
  • Pale skin (easily sunburned, doesn't tan much or at all, natural red or blond hair)
  • Exposure to large amounts of coal tar, paraffin, arsenic compounds, or certain types of oil
  • You or members of your family have had skin cancers
  • Multiple or unusual moles
  • Severe sunburns in the past
  • Weakened immune system
  • Older age (although melanomas can also occur in younger people)

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Skin Cancer?

Skin cancer can be found early, and both people and their doctors play important roles in finding skin cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor:
  • Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)
  • Scaliness, roughness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way an area of skin looks
  • A sore that doesn't heal
  • The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark
  • A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain

How do I Protect Myself from UV rays?

Use sunscreen, like Vertra's "Elemental Resistance" products, to help prevent skin cancer.

While sunscreen protects your skin from the sun's harmful UV rays, sunscreen is just a filter that does not block all UV rays. Sunscreen should not be used as a way to prolong your time in the sun. Even with proper sunscreen use, some UV rays get through, so other forms of sun protection are also important.

Sunscreens are available in many forms (lotions, creams, ointments, gels, sprays, wipes, and lip balms, to name a few). Some cosmetics, such as moisturizers, lipsticks and foundations, are considered sunscreen products if they have sunscreen. Some makeup contains sunscreen, but you have to check the label (makeup, including lipstick, without sunscreen does not provide sun protection).

Read The Labels! When choosing a sunscreen product, always read the label. Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn. A higher SPF number means more UVB protection, but says nothing about UVA protection. For example, correctly applied SPF 30 sunscreen gives you get the equivalent of 1 minute of UVB rays for each 30 minutes you spend in the sun. So, 1 hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending 2 minutes totally unprotected. People often do not apply enough sunscreen, so they get less actual protection.

Sunscreens labeled with SPFs as high as 100+ are available. Higher numbers do mean more protection, but many people don't understand the SPF scale. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%, SPF 50 sunscreens about 98%, and SPF 100 about 99%. The higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes and no sunscreen protects you completely. Sunscreens with an SPF lower than 15 must now include a warning on the label stating that the product has been shown only to help prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging.

Broad Spectrum Sunscreen: Sunscreen products can only be labeled “broad spectrum” if they have been tested and shown to protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Some of the chemicals in sunscreens that help protect against UVA rays include avobenzone (Parsol 1789), ecamsule, zinc oxide, and titanium dioxide. Only broad spectrum sunscreen products with an SPF of 15 or higher can state that they help protect against skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures.

Water Resistant Sunscreen: Sunscreens can no longer allowed be labeled as “waterproof” or “sweat proof” because these terms are misleading. Sunscreens that claim to be “water resistant,” must state whether the protection lasts for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating, based on tests.

Expiration Dates: Check the expiration date on the sunscreen to ensure that the product has not expired. Most sunscreen products are good for at least 2 to 3 years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the sunscreen ingredients. Sunscreens that have been exposed to heat for long periods, such as if they were kept in a glove box or car trunk through the summer, may be less effective.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation

What is ultraviolet (UV) radiation?

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor for most skin cancers. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays. Tanning lamps and beds are also sources of UV rays. People who get a lot of UV exposure from these sources are at greater risk for skin cancer. Even though UV rays make up only a very small portion of the sun's rays, they are the main cause of the sun's damaging effects on the skin. UV rays damage the DNA of skin cells. Skin cancers start when this damage affects the DNA of genes that control skin cell growth. There are 3 main types of UV rays:
  • UVA rays age skin cells and can damage their DNA. These rays are linked to long-term skin damage such as wrinkles, but they are also thought to play a role in some skin cancers. Most tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA, which has been found to increase skin cancer risk.
  • UVB rays have slightly more energy than UVA rays. They can damage skin cells' DNA directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns. They are also thought to cause most skin cancers.
  • UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays, but they don't get through our atmosphere and are not in sunlight. They are not normally a cause of skin cancer.
Both UVA and UVB rays can damage skin and cause skin cancer. UVB rays are a more potent cause of at least some skin cancers, but based on what's known today, there are no safe UV rays. The strength of the UV rays reaching the ground depends on a number of factors, such as:
  • Time of day: UV rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Season of the year: UV rays are stronger during spring and summer months. This is less of a factor near the equator.
  • Distance from the equator (latitude): UV exposure goes down as you get further from the equator.
  • Altitude: More UV rays reach the ground at higher elevations.
  • Cloud cover: The effect of clouds can vary. Sometimes cloud cover blocks some UV from the sun and lowers UV exposure, while some types of clouds can reflect UV and can increase UV exposure. What is important to know is that UV rays can get through, even on a cloudy day.
  • Reflection off surfaces: UV rays can bounce off surfaces like water, sand, snow, pavement, or grass, leading to an increase in UV exposure.
  • The amount of UV exposure a person gets depends on the strength of the rays, the length of time the skin is exposed, and whether the skin is protected with clothing or sunscreen.
People who live in areas with year-round, bright sunlight have a higher risk of skin cancer. Spending a lot of time outdoors for work or recreation without protective clothing and sunscreen increases your risk. The pattern of exposure may also be important. For example, frequent sunburns in childhood may increase the risk for some types of skin cancer many years or even decades later. Skin cancers are one result of getting too much sun, but there are other effects as well. Sunburn and tanning are the short-term results of too much exposure to UV rays, and are signs of skin damage. Long-term exposure can cause early skin aging, wrinkles, loss of skin elasticity, dark patches (lentigos, sometimes called age spots or liver spots), and pre-cancerous skin changes (such as dry, scaly, rough patches called actinic keratosis). The sun's UV rays increase a person's risk of cataracts and certain other eye problems, too. They can also suppress the skin's immune system. Darker-skinned people are generally less likely to get skin cancer than light-skinned people, but they can still get cataracts and immune suppression.

The UV Index

As noted above, the amount of UV light reaching the ground in any given place depends on a number of factors, including the time of day, time of year, elevation, and cloud cover. To help people better understand the strength of UV light in their area on a given day, the National Weather Service and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) have developed the UV Index. It gives people an idea of how strong the UV light is in their area, on a scale from 1 to 11+. A higher number means greater risk of exposure to UV rays and a higher chance of sunburn and skin damage that could ultimately lead to skin cancer. The UV Index is given daily for regions throughout the country. Many newspaper, television, online, and smartphone weather forecasts include the projected UV Index. Further information about the UV Index, as well as your local UV Index forecast, can be found on the EPA's website at www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html. Smartphone apps are available from the EPA at www.epa.gov/enviro/mobile. As with any forecast, local changes in cloud cover and other factors could change the actual UV levels experienced.

Medical Disclaimer:

The information and advice provided here are general in nature and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You are strongly encouraged to seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions regarding a medical condition.

References:

The information provided here is from 4 primary sources:

American Cancer Society http://www.cancer.org/

American Academy of Dermatology https://www.aad.org/

Skin Cancer Foundation http://www.skincancer.org/

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency http://www3.epa.gov/

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