Health & Wellness Articles

Sun Protection Tips for Healthy Skin

Get the Facts about Tanning, Sunscreen, and More

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More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States and over 10,000 people will die from the disease each year. This number hits even closer to home when you consider that almost one in five Americans is expected to develop some type of skin cancer in his or her lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).

Once only a concern during the summer months, tanning is now a year-round skin danger with the thinning of the ozone layer and the abundance of artificial tanning salons. The two primary types of ultraviolet (UV) radiation are UVA rays (which deeply penetrate the skin and cause the most genetic damage) and UVB rays (the "burning" rays). The National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization report that both UVA and UVB rays can cause cancer.

Damaging UVA rays and UVB ultraviolet rays slip through your windows and even a healthy jog around the block can wreak havoc on your skin, as the cellular damage from UV radiation accumulates over time. But the prime culprit behind most cases of skin cancer is sun damage from tanning.

What is Tanning?
Many people assume that a tan protects them, when in fact a tan is actually a sign of skin damage. Tanning is the skin’s reaction to UV radiation from the sun or an artificial tanning bulb. When skin is exposed to UV rays, it tries to protect itself by producing a brown pigment called melanin, which darkens the cells of the outer layer of skin (epidermis). Tanning is your skin’s imperfect defense mechanism against further damage, and darker tans cause the most permanent damage.

UV rays damage the DNA of your skin cells and even though your body repairs a lot of the damage successfully, over time the leftover damage can lead to cellular mutations that cause skin cancer. Ongoing, unprotected UV exposure can also age the skin, causing wrinkles, sagging and brown spots. UV radiation is also a major cause of cataracts, a clouding of the lens of the eye.

Some people have the mistaken impression that tanning the skin is healthier than getting sunburned, but both cause DNA damage to the skin cells, which isn't immediately apparent. According to the National Institutes of Health, by the time a person sees and feels sunburn (about six to eight hours after sun exposure), it is too late. Permanent damage is a delayed effect that takes years to show up, and damage from tanning accumulates over time. Sunburn has been definitively linked to melanoma, a deadly type of skin cancer. Some research shows that experiencing just one sunburn can more than double your risk of developing melanoma.
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About The Author

Leanne Beattie Leanne Beattie
A freelance writer, marketing consultant and life coach, Leanne often writes about health and nutrition. See all of Leanne's articles.

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  • Edit: with a 0.33% yearly diagnosis rate, and an 80 year life-span, each individual has anywhere from a 20-27% chance of being diagnosed with skin cancer over their life-time, so the article/reference is correct on that number.
    hmm, now what's the rate for malignant vs. benign types, I wonder. - 5/2/2015 4:15:41 PM
  • I feel this article is a bit misleading numbers wise. Though I find most cancer related topics like taking numbers out of context anyway. So, numbers-wise I feel there needs to be some perspective added:
    "Over a million" diagnosis each year is scary, but that "over a million" is actually impacting less than 0.33% of the US population, to impact 1% of the US population would need "over 3 million" diagnosis. Of the yearly cancer related deaths, skin cancer accounts for less than 2% of cancer related deaths in the USA.

    So based on the numbers, I'd rather enjoy my anti-oxidant meals, keep my skin well hydrated, and not apply random chemical cocktails to my skin (including most moisturizing creams, sun-screens, and makeup). I would suspect that applying chemicals to the skin could do just as much cellular damage over time as being unprotected in the sun.

    That's just my two cents (or five cents since Canada doesn't have pennies any more)... lol - 5/2/2015 4:05:20 PM
  • I quit trying to get a tan at least 20 years ago. Only makes my skin look old.

    and I still was diagnosed with melanoma a few years ago. Scary stuff & the nuclear medicine part was VERY painful. Now I'm down to just annual visits & still all clear. YAY!

    If you've never been to a dermatologist for a full body scan, please go. Melanoma has an extremely high survival rate when caught early, but spreads very quickly it it's not. - 5/2/2015 7:35:17 AM
  • Is it me


    is the girl in the picture

    giving us the finger

    LoL !

    GREAT article

    Am going to send it to my
    fair-skinned, red-headed son
    so he will use the shot-glass/1 oz
    amouint necessary
    No wonder he ALWAYS gets burned
    although he says he uses lotion


    - 10/2/2013 12:16:07 AM
  • i have light brown colored skin and it's also sensitive. I'm allergic to sunscreen. I got a sunburn last summer and possibly 2 times in the summer and a couple times in the winter from sun reflection off the snow. I was hoping for a more natural defense against the sun.
    - 2/21/2013 5:05:12 PM
  • I used to consider tanning a "hobby". I still look wistfully at the tanning salons when I go by. I am now almost 49 years old though, and see the results in the mirror every day. - 10/17/2012 11:13:18 AM
  • To HEALTHYJEN11 and anyone else allergic to sunscreens -

    Google sunscreen clothing and you'll come up with reputable clothing companies. The one I use is fabulous! Hats, gloves, even sleeves only to use when driving, skirts, swimwear - the list is endless. - 10/17/2012 9:34:59 AM
  • warning tanners against the danger of UV rays is like warning smokers against the danger of their tobacco and other poisons. we know the risks. however, I CAN stop tanning whenever I want, it isn't an addiction. and it's a LOT cheaper to visit the cancer beds than to buy the cancer sticks. and while smokers complain of having to freeze in the winters for their vice, I'm toasty warm and relaxed all year round. - 10/17/2012 12:24:25 AM
  • Because of my ancestry I have never felt compelled to be a huge fan of sunscreen. I like to get some sun but generally wear long sleeves even in summer and tend to wear jeans all year long unless I am exercising. - 10/10/2012 8:29:03 PM
  • Well ....Dr' Oz has come around( because of new research)... and NOW recomends the tanning beds that use the UVB....saying no more that 5 minutes each time for health - 7/7/2012 7:26:55 PM
  • I burn instantly in the sun, but am allergic to sunscreen... what's a girl to do??? - 6/23/2012 8:56:14 PM
  • 'Scuse me while I have a chuckle up here at 60 degrees northern latitude. With only 5 hours of sunlight on December 26, and the sun inching along a little hop over the southern horizon, UV damage to my skin isn't one of my big worries today! - 12/26/2011 12:05:44 PM
  • Here is a report to help find non-toxic sunscreens.
    2011sunscreen/ - 6/28/2011 12:55:06 PM

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