It’s no secret that too much sun exposure can be dangerous or even fatal, but nearly 50 percent of people over the age of 65 are diagnosed with melanoma or other types of skin cancer. Even the most health conscious people are unsure how to keep their skin adequately protected.
Below are some of the most dangerous myths in the mix that you should beware of.
Myth 1: Using a beach umbrella is sufficient sun protection.
The truth is that when you’re at the beach, the majority of UV light bounces off the sand and onto your skin, whether you are underneath an umbrella or not. Also, unbeknownst to many, water and snow have the same reflective effect.
When you’re boating or sitting under a beach umbrella, you should apply a generous amount of sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin, including your face and neck. A wide-brimmed hat is added protection, but shouldn’t be worn alone. The same rule applies when you’re out snow skiing. The sun is still just as powerful and requires a barrier between it and your skin.
Myth 2: A sun-protection factor (SPF) of 45 is three times stronger than the recommended SPF 15.
Though doctors do recommend an SPF of 15 or higher, SPFs higher than 15 won’t provide much more protection than you’ll find at 15. Sunscreens at 45 SPF are only about 5 percent more protective than SPF 15, and the effects wear off just as fast as that of an SPF 15 sunscreen.
All sunscreens, no matter their SPF, need to be reapplied every two hours – especially when you’re exposed to water. Water dilutes the effect and washes away some of the lotion. Waterproof sunscreens help a little, but still need reapplication to be on the safe side. It’s good to go for sunscreens that are labeled “broad spectrum,” meaning that they block both UVA and UVB rays, as well as list titanium dioxide or Parsol 1789 in the ingredients.
Myth 3: Family history is the best indicator of skin cancer risk.
Having a family history of skin cancer is major, but the most important factor is your own skin type. Having light-colored skin and eyes and freckles put you at a greater risk for skin cancer, as well as other types of sun damage. You are even more prone to wrinkles as you age. The next highest skin cancer risk group includes those who have lots of moles, freckles and spots. Then there are those with a family history of skin cancer.
Having these risk factors, however, doesn’t make it inevitable that you will develop skin cancer, but it does mean that you should be much more careful in the sun. Skin exposed to sunlight will produce more melanin, the main skin pigment. That’s what causes the coveted skin tans.
If you find that you have difficulty tanning your skin, you are likely more vulnerable to developing skin cancer. Darker skinned individuals and those who tan easily, have few moles and little or no family history of skin cancer have the lowest skin cancer risk. That being said, they should still be careful and use sunscreen whenever exposed to the sun.