Rendered as "the glorious lamp of Heav'n" in Virgil's Aeneid — and for decades idolized by sunbathers looking to give their skin a golden blush — the sun these days is heeded in a different light: the rays that tan can also deliver a potentially deadly cancer to the one that suns.
Consider this estimate: as many as half of all Americans who live to age 65 will have at least one bout with skin cancer, securing the disease's rank as the most common form of cancer in the United States.
But don't despair. Caught early and treated promptly, skin cancer is almost 100 percent curable.
Better tidings still: Taking simple steps like wearing the right sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer in the first place.
These sun safety steps are just the ounce of prevention to help stave off the potentially serious disease:
- Try to avoid the sun between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- While enjoying the great outdoors, stay in the shade or wear protective clothing, such as a broad-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and sunglasses with UV protective lenses.
- Confused about choosing a sunscreen? Look for one that says it protects against both the sun's UVA and UVB rays and has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 15 or greater.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out and reapply it every two hours, even more often if you're swimming or sweating.
And don't neglect to wear sunscreen on cloudy days, says Brett Coldiron, M.D., a Cincinnati dermatologist and founder of that city's Skin Cancer Center. The fact that it's cloudy or cold out doesn't mean there is any less UV radiation.
While most skin cancers appear after age 50, people should be protected from the sun's radiation starting in childhood because even one severe sunburn, at any age, can increase cancer risk.