EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The most common type of cancer isn’t breast cancer, colon cancer, or lung cancer it’s skin cancer. Nearly one in five Americans will develop some form of it by the age of 70.
We associate the damaging rays of the sun with causing skin cancer but health experts warn us that sun exposure isn’t the only risk factor.
A rather cloudy day didn’t stop Amy Welles and her family from enjoying the great outdoors at Kirby Park, but it did stop her from something she typically does this time of year.
“Try to put it on them every time they walk out the door,” Welles says referring to the sun.
That something is applying sunscreen. It’s traditionally top of mind for us approaching the summer season when we experience the strongest, skin-damaging ultraviolet rays while the sun is at its highest angle of the year. But skin damage is possible on a cloudy day, and at times of the year, you may not think it possible.
“I have a lot of patients who are skiers that don’t realize they’re getting a lot of sun exposure in that sport which they would classically think of as a winter sport,” stated Dr. Shadi Kourosh, MD, MPH Dermatologist, Director of Community Health for the Department of Dermatology, Mass General Brigham.
It’s not just the sun that can damage your skin. So can pollutants like smog or car exhaust.
“In the past several years, we’ve really been looking at the role of pollution in causing skin cancer and premature aging of the skin,” explained Dr. Kourosh.
“I honestly didn’t hear that. That’s something I’m learning now,” Welles said.
Another culprit? Long-term exposure to UV light from such things as computers, smartphones, and tanning beds.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. It blocks 97% of UVB rays which are the rays that burn the skin. You can also wear clothing that contains UPF which stands for ultraviolet protective factor.
“You can find hats, bathing suits, shirts, all kinds of clothing now that have some protection built right into the fabric,” stated Kourosh.
While you’re more likely to develop skin cancer with age, Dr. Kourosh says to consider this.
“People in some cases due to family history or their exposures could develop skin cancer even in their 20s,” explained Dr. Kourosh.
Dr. Kourosh says it’s important to make sure your skin is fit for the long haul. She recommends having a dermatologist check your skin annually if you have a family history of skin cancer or a personal history of intense UV exposure from sunburns or tanning bed use early in life.
Head to the Skin Cancer website to learn more about year-round skin protection.