Although the risk of developing melanoma cannot be eliminated, it can be reduced by minimizing exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and from tanning lamps, especially during childhood and adolescence. This combined with a complete self-skin exam once every month to detect early melanomas would drastically reduce the death rate from the disease.
What You Should Know About UV Radiation
THE SOLAR RADIATION SPECTRUM
The sun emits several types of radiation, and much of it reaches the earth's surface. In the above animation, the energy of the radiation increases from right to left. Warmth from the sun is due to infrared radiation, while the light and colors we perceive are due to visible radiation. Neither infrared nor visible radiation is harmful under ordinary circumstances. Moving toward the high energy part of the spectrum is ultraviolet radiation, a known carcinogen (cancer-causing agent). Both UVA and UVB radiation reach the earth's surface. Exposure to either increases your risk of melanoma and other skin cancers. UVC radiation and X-rays have even higher energies, but are absorbed by the atmosphere and never reach the earth's surface.
UVB radiation causes sunburns. UVA radiation doesn't burn but penetrates deeper into the skin.
Skin damage from UV exposure is cumulative throughout your lifetime and cannot be reversed.
One blistering sunburn before age 20 doubles your lifetime risk of melanoma. Three or more blistering sunburns before age 20 multiplies your lifetime risk by five.
UVB radiation is partially absorbed by the ozone layer, but UVA radiation is not.
The UV index primarily measures UVB radiation, but does not measure UVA radiation.
The intensity of UVB radiation varies depending on season, time of day, latitude, and altitude. The intensity of UVA radiation is not affected much by these variables.
Temperature does not affect the intensity of UV radiation; exposure in winter can be just as damaging to your skin as exposure in summer.
Light clouds and haze do not protect against UV exposure. A heavy overcast prevents most UVB exposure but only about 50 percent of UVA exposure.
Reflection of UV radiation from light surfaces such as sand, water, concrete, and snow can damage your skin. A beach umbrella may provide as little as 50 percent protection from UV radiation due to reflection from sand.
Being in water (or covered in water) does not prevent UV damage to your skin and may even magnify the damage.
Window glass blocks most UVB radiation, but only 30 percent of UVA radiation. The laminated glass of car windshields blocks most UVB and UVA radiation but side and rear window glass does not block most UVA radiation. Clear films for non-laminated car window glass are available.
Sunlight reflected from nearby light surfaces such as
sand, water, and concrete
can cause harmful
UV exposure even in shade.
What You Should Know About Indoor UV Tanning
The Indoor Tanning Association is lying to you and to tanning salon operators about the risks of indoor tanning. They want you to believe that "responsible" indoor UV tanning is safe, that there is no compelling evidence that UV radiation from tanning beds causes melanoma and other skin cancers, that getting a base tan protects you from subsequent sunburn, and that indoor UV tanning may even protect you from cancer by generating Vitamin D. The absurd claims of the five billion dollar per year UV tanning industry of today and the tobacco industry of 30 to 40 years ago are frighteningly similar.
UVB radiation from tanning beds and tanning booths has about the same intensity as that of the sun. UVA radiation from tanning beds and tanning booths is 10 to 13 times more intense than that of the sun.
A 2007 Australian study found an overall increased melanoma risk of 22 to 36 percent among individuals who had used a tanning bed.
A 1994 Swedish study published in American Journal of Epidemiology found that tanning bed users under age 30 who tanned 10 times or more per year multiplied their lifetime risk of melanoma by nearly eight.
Using a tanning bed to reduce the risk of sunburn before going to a sunny climate is ineffective. A tan provides protection equivalent to a sunscreen with an SPF of 2 to 3, not nearly enough to prevent sunburn.
UV exposure is not required to provide an adequate amount of Vitamin D. The Vitamin D found in supplements is the same as the Vitamin D generated by exposure to sunlight. Supplements are just as effective as sunlight for those who are deficient in Vitamin D.
WHO SAYS UV RADIATION
LAMPS CAUSES SKIN CANCER?
If you want a tan, the only safe option is to use a sunless bronzer. Movie stars and models use them; most wouldn't be caught dead in the sun or in tanning beds. Sunless bronzers contain active ingredients that safely tan the dead outer layer of the skin without the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation. Modern bronzing products produce tans that are indistinguishable from those resulting from unsafe UV exposure.
Spray booths are now available in many tanning salons and make the process of getting a safe, natural-looking tan quick and easy. There are also many sunless bronzers available for self-application. The key to getting a natural-looking tan without an orange color is to choose a product that is only slightly darker than your skin. Pretest a sample on an inconspicuous area of skin 24 hours in advance, then clean your skin and apply following product instructions. For more information about selecting the right product and applying it effectively, visit Sunless.com. Most sunless bronzers do not contain sunscreen so be sure to use appropriate measures to prevent exposure.
Vitamin D is produced in the skin of all warm-blooded animals upon exposure to UVB radiation.
There are several forms of Vitamin D; the form produced in skin is Vitamin D3, or Cholicalciferol.
The U.S. daily recommended dose of Vitamin D is 600 International Units (IU) for individuals up to age 70 and 800 IU for those over 70.
For a white Caucasian in the Northern Hemisphere, sufficient Vitamin D3 is generated by incidental exposure to sunlight a few times per week in the
summer, but not during winter. The maximum safe dose of Vitamin D3 is 4000 IU.
Salmon, sardines, and tuna are rich in Vitamin D3. Milk and some orange juice brands contain added Vitamin D3.