YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — “One in five people will develop some form of skin cancer during their lifetime,” according to Maj. Shelley Aldrich, 374th Medical Group chief of Dermatology. That can be a sombering fact for sun lovers and those who like to make regular trips to their local indoor tanning facility.
The three most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma are caused by ultraviolet B rays and are highly treatable. However, ultraviolet A rays cause melanoma, which is not only the deadliest skin cancer, but the most common especially for the younger population ages 29 and younger.
For those who want to get a tan and think indoor tanning is the ticket, think again, according to Aldrich.
“Tanning beds give off more UVA rays than UVB rays and greatly increase your chances of developing melanoma and should be avoided at all costs,” said Aldrich.
A different, but still as dangerous option to the tanning bed is sun exposure outside. There are ways to protect yourself and loved ones from the sun’s radiation.
Sunscreen minimizes your chance of getting skin cancer and photo aging, which can cause fine wrinkling, dark and light spots. Sunscreen either physically blocks rays to the skin or absorbs and chemically changes the properties depending on what type of sunscreen you use. Broad spectrum sunscreen blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
“We recommend to at least use Sun Protection Factor 30 on your face daily,” said Staff Sgt. Danielle Diaz, 374th Medical Group NCO in charge of the Dermatology clinic.
Aldrich recommends applying two ounces, or a shot glass amount, of sunscreen to sun exposed skin on the face, arms and legs 15 minutes before going outside regardless of the weather. Sunburn is still possible when it is cloudy out since 80 percent of the sun’s radiation still passes through.
Seeking shade, wearing sun protective clothing and applying broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to all exposed skin will maximize sun protection.
For those who still want that golden look, sunless tanners and bronzers are a healthier option.
Even though you may protect yourself from the sun, it is still important to check your skin.
Certain risk factors can increase your chances of developing skin cancer, such as a family history of skin cancer or indoor tanning. However all individuals should check their skin for rapidly growing moles, moles that itch, bleed or change color or new skin bumps that scale, bleed or cause irritation. Aldrich recommends going to the doctor for a baseline skin exam if an individual has risk factors for skin cancer or the symptoms above.
“Once a month, make a conscious effort to check over your skin for any new spots, marks or bumps,” said Aldrich.
When considering overall health and preventing skin cancers, service member and their families should take precautions when going out in the sun and have sunscreen on hand at all times.