Best De­fense

Pro­tect­ing your skin against skin can­cer means get­ting even more savvy about things that could cause it harm. Here are six mis­takes to avoid.

Oxygen - - Contents - BY KAREN ASP

Pro­tect­ing your skin against skin can­cer means get­ting even more savvy about things that could cause harm. Here are six mis­takes to avoid.

gone are the days when you’d lie out like an iguana and soak in the sun. Now that you’re older and wiser, you’re try­ing to be smarter about pro­tect­ing your skin. Good thing, too, be­cause melanoma, the sec­ond most com­mon form of skin can­cer in women aged 15 to 29, has in­creased 6.1 per­cent an­nu­ally in Cau­casian women younger than 44, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Academy of Der­ma­tol­ogy.

Yet while you may have nixed that sun­bathing habit, other things you may be do­ing could in­crease your skin can­cer odds with­out you even know­ing it. Here are six to put on your radar:

1 MIS­TAKE: Sit­ting too close to a com­pact flu­o­res­cent lamp (CFL) The Fix:

You know that skin-dam­ag­ing ul­tra­vi­o­let (UV) rays come from the sun. But a light­bulb? Turns out that CFLs with de­fec­tive coat­ings could leak UVA, UVB and UVC rays, all of which can harm skin. In one study, most of the CFL bulbs that re­searchers tested had de­fects in the coat­ing, leak­ing UV to dif­fer­ent de­grees. That UV is mea­sured in terms of thresh­old limit value (TLV), or the level to which it’s be­lieved a per­son could be ex­posed on a daily ba­sis (for eight hours) with­out ad­verse ef­fects. TLV for some of the bulbs was reached in less than an hour, some in only a few min­utes, mak­ing that leaked amount po­ten­tially harm­ful, says Miriam Rafailovich, Ph.D., study co-au­thor and dis­tin­guished pro­fes­sor at Stony Brook Univer­sity in New York. Pro­tect your­self by sit­ting at least 2 feet from these bulbs, and avoid look­ing di­rectly into them be­cause they could also cause reti­nal dam­age.

2 MIS­TAKE: Ap­ply­ing only one layer of sun­screen The Fix:

When it comes to slather­ing on the sun­screen, two lay­ers is bet­ter than one. That’s what re­searchers found af­ter mea­sur­ing SPF lev­els of sun­screen when ap­plied at three dif­fer­ent thick­nesses, ac­cord­ing to this study from Clin­i­cal and Ex­per­i­men­tal Der­ma­tol­ogy. Most folks ap­ply too lit­tle, which is why the two-layer rule could of­fer bet­ter pro­tec­tion. Use a sun­screen with SPF 30, and don’t for­get your nose, ears and lips, says El­iz­a­beth Tanzi, M.D., founder and director of Cap­i­tal Laser & Skin Care and as­so­ciate clin­i­cal pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Wash­ing­ton, D.C.

3 MIS­TAKE: Not seek­ing cover from win­dows The Fix:

Just be­cause you’re in­side doesn’t mean you’re safe from the sun. If you’re near a win­dow, whether in your car, of­fice or an air­plane, you could be get­ting a high dose of UV rays. “Although UVB is ef­fec­tively blocked by glass, at least 50 per­cent of UVA (which like UVB harms the skin and can cause skin can­cer) can pass through win­dows,” says David Bank, M.D., spokesman for the Skin Can­cer Foun­da­tion and founder and director of The Cen­ter for Der­ma­tol­ogy, Cos­metic & Laser Surgery in Westch­ester, New York.

One study found that nearly 53 per­cent of skin can­cers in the United States oc­curs on the left — or driv­ers’ side — of the body. To pro­tect your­self, do more than just wear broad-spec­trum sun­screen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Cover up with long pants, sleeves and UV-block­ing sun­glasses. When fly­ing, re­quest an aisle seat or close the shade if you’re sit­ting by the win­dow be­cause you’ll be more ex­posed to UV ra­di­a­tion at higher al­ti­tudes. Sun ex­po­sure ac­tu­ally in­creases 4 to 5 per­cent with ev­ery 1,000 feet above sea level, Bank says. Also, con­sider in­stalling pro­tec­tive film to the win­dows of your car and home, even your of­fice if your boss al­lows. And if pos­si­ble, avoid driv­ing or fly­ing mid­day when the sun’s rays are the strong­est.

4 MIS­TAKE: Hav­ing a cock­tail The Fix:

Although al­co­hol has been shown to have health ben­e­fits like re­duc­ing risk of car­dio­vas­cu­lar death, it may not be your skin’s best friend. Ac­cord­ing to a study in the jour­nal Can­cer Epi­demi­ol­ogy, Biomark­ers & Preven­tion, just one drink a day — white wine was the worst of­fender — raised the risk of in­va­sive melanoma by 14 per­cent. Even more sur­pris­ing, risk was higher in parts of the body that re­ceived less sun ex­po­sure. What’s go­ing on? “Al­co­hol can cause car­cino­gen­e­sis as the ethanol in al­co­hol me­tab­o­lizes into ac­etalde­hyde, which dam­ages DNA and pre­vents DNA re­pair,” says Eun­y­oung Cho, Sc.D., as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of der­ma­tol­ogy and epi­demi­ol­ogy at Brown Univer­sity in Prov­i­dence, Rhode Is­land. Al­co­hol con­sump­tion has been as­so­ci­ated with in­creased risk of many other can­cers, like breast and col­orec­tal, he adds. Now add melanoma to that list, which means sip wisely, weigh­ing the pros and cons care­fully.

5 MIS­TAKE: Ex­fo­li­at­ing too fre­quently and for­get­ting to pro­tect against the sun The Fix:

Ex­fo­li­at­ing can go a long way in keep­ing your skin look­ing younger and health­ier. Yet most women over-ex­fo­li­ate, us­ing cleans­ing brushes with harsh clean­ers and fa­cial scrubs a few times a week. “Overly ag­gres­sive ex­fo­li­a­tion leads to strip­ping the skin of its nat­u­ral oils and in­flam­ma­tion, which can in­crease acne, worsen rosacea and ac­cel­er­ate the ag­ing process,” Tanzi says. Plus, your skin is then more sen­si­tive to the sun, which could in­crease your risk for burn­ing, es­pe­cially if you ex­fo­li­ate in the morn­ing. The key is to limit ex­fo­li­a­tion. While oily skin types can ex­fo­li­ate daily, nor­mal skin types should ex­fo­li­ate no more than ev­ery other day and sen­si­tive and dry skin types only once a week. Af­ter ex­fo­li­at­ing, be ex­tra vig­i­lant about us­ing sun pro­tec­tion and avoid­ing be­ing out­doors in peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

6 MIS­TAKE: Go­ing for a base tan in a bed The Fix:

In spite of in­creased aware­ness about the health risks of tan­ning beds, young women are still us­ing them. In one sur­vey, 45 per­cent of col­lege-aged women said they had used a tan­ning bed, 30 per­cent of them in the last year. Yet not only is the no­tion of a base tan a fal­lacy — “a tan by def­i­ni­tion is the skin’s re­sponse to dam­age and that dam­age adds up,” Tanzi says — but ex­pos­ing your skin to a tan­ning bed will also sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease your risk of skin can­cer, which may be why skin can­cer rates in young women have risen. A whop­ping 97 per­cent of women di­ag­nosed with melanoma be­fore age 30 have en­gaged in in­door tan­ning, Bank says. That tan­ning bed is also ter­ri­ble for wrin­kles and brown spots and makes the skin look leath­ery af­ter a while. In­stead, opt for a spray tan so you don’t ruin your skin, Tanzi rec­om­mends.

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