As we move closer to the longest day of the year and we Northerners emerge from hibernation to enjoy some sun before winter hits again, it’s important not to go overboard with sun exposure and remember that, while warm and friendly, the UVB rays can cause skin cancer.
We want to help you determine how to still get vitamin D and save your skin at the same time. First, we’ll explain three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.
1. Basal Cell Carcinoma
This is the most common type of skin cancer. It is developed from years of sun exposure or indoor tanning and, if not caught in time, can expand to other nerves, tissues and bones and cause damage. It is identified as a flesh-colored round bump that sometimes has a pinkish hue. It is most commonly found on the face, neck and ears.
2. Squamous Cell Carcinoma
The second most common form of skin cancer, this appears as a scaly dry patch of skin. It occurs most frequently on areas of the face that have been exposed to the sun the most, such as ears, edges of the face, as well as the arms and chest.
Typically seen as a disfigured mole or new dark spot on the skin, melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer and requires early detection. There are five things to consider when assessing a mole for melanoma: asymmetry, border, color, diameter and whether it has evolved (ABCDE).
Before you hit the sand with your oil or SPF 5 lotion, consider these statistics:
- 5.4 million people are treated for non-melanoma cancer each year
- Every hour a person dies from melanoma
- Once diagnosed, there is an expected five-year survival rate.
- It is the most common cancer in people ages 15-29.
Risk Factors of Skin Cancer
- Fair Skin
- Family History
- Weakened Immune System
- Being Male
How to Balance Sun Exposure and Vitamin D Intake
Practice sun safety by wearing protective clothing, a hat and sunglasses, and reapplying your sunscreen frequently. Don’t spend more than 15 minutes in the sun during peak hours. It’s also a good idea to regularly check your skin for irregular moles or freckles that have either evolved or are new.
As UVA rays enter the epidermis, the melanin reacts to protect the skin—what we consider a tan. UVA rays go deeper into the skin and penetrate through the epidermis cells to the blood vessels and nerves. This can cause a weakening of the immune system and allow melanoma to develop.
Foods Rich in Vitamin D
Certain foods can be a great alternative source for getting your daily dose of vitamin D. Some of these foods include:
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Orange juice
- Vitamin D supplements
It’s fun to get out in the warm sun during summer, but it’s not a sufficient source of Vitamin D—at least not without its consequences. Be safe and know the limits of your body; the more you tan or burn, the higher your risk of developing skin cancer. Remember the ABCDE’s of melanoma and always check your skin. If you have a history of skin cancer or are concerned about a mole or dry patch on your skin, consult a dermatologist.