In our minds, we always link summer to images of paradisiac beaches with tanned bodies composing such idyllic scenes. As the bathing season starts, we concern ourselves with getting that right golden brown tone. But how much do we worry about maintaining a healthy, young skin?
High temperatures, higher risks
Behind the sunny weather that warms up our vacations, numbers speak out loudly: according to the World Health Organization, nowadays, 2 to 3 million non-melanoma and 132,000 melanoma skin cancers occur globally each year. One in every three cancers diagnosed is a skin cancer. In the U.S., where the tanning trend is blatant, one in five will develop skin cancer by the age of 70, as stated by the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Even as prevention of skin cancer is acknowledged by the population at large, there are many good practices still to nourish. Excessive exposure to the sun is well known as the biggest cause for sunburns – what is not so obvious is that neither shade nor sunscreen alone can completely prevent it from happening. In 2017, JAMA Dermatology showed that 78 % of participants in a “shade” group got sunburned after a 3½-hour period, while only 25 % of those wearing sunscreen did.
For those who enjoy their vacations at the mountains rather than the beach, prevention shouldn’t be less reinforced: according to the Skin Care Foundation, levels of ultraviolet radiation increase by up to 24 % for each 1,000-meter increase in altitude.
Medication is also another troubling issue: some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
Tanning beds myths
On one hand, we already know that the sun can be dangerous – even if we can’t fully grasp how much. On the other, there is a growing belief that tanning beds are beneficial to our health.
Many even think that this procedure fulfils the same purpose as light boxes used to treat psoriasis and other skin conditions. However, machines used in tanning salons are nothing like the light boxes we find today in doctors’ offices.”
Also, there is the widespread idea that tanning beds improve our vitamin D levels. Few of us know that tanning beds emit UVA rays, instead of UVB, the ones that actually interact with the protein in the skin that converts solar rays into vitamin D.
One study observing 63 women diagnosed with melanoma before age 30 found that 61 of them (97 %) had used tanning beds. As dermatologists highlight constantly regarding the dangerous consequences of tanning beds: one visit to the tanning salon significantly increases your chances of a cancer that can kill you.
The right formula for a young skin
For those who cannot do without a brown skin in the summer, the American Academy of Dermatology advises to apply self-tanner rather than get a tan. “Every time you get a tan, you prematurely age your skin.”
Expensive anti-ageing procedures and products sold as formulas to keep our looks fresh and young are not effective in preventing the ageing of the skin. Instead, sunscreen and similar ways of protection must be used regularly to keep your skin young.
Protect yourself: check regularly
Use as many types of sun protection as you can, in combination, including clothing, hats, sunglasses and getting out of the sun – which is the best prevention you can accomplish.
Skin cancer prevention also includes being aware of changes in the skin, particularly those that look odd. A physician should promptly assess any new lesion or a progressive change in a lesion’s appearance (as size, shape, or colour).
Medical Port provides access to care in the fields of Dermatology and Oncology with English-speaking staff in Portugal. Please contact us if you want to undergo a medical consultation in order to check your skin. Stay safe this summer!