Skin Cancer Prevention: Protecting Yourself from UV Rays Amid Climate Change

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) cites that one in five Americans is likely to develop skin cancer at some point in their life. Data also shows that about 9,500 people in the country are diagnosed with this type of cancer every day.

The condition develops due to the irregular growth of skin cells, often caused by excessive sun — and consequently, ultraviolet light — exposure. With the thinning ozone layer, getting caught under the sun’s damaging rays for a long period is a situation that’s going to be harder and harder to avoid.

Climate Change Increases the Risk of Skin Cancer

Climate change is a growing problem globally. High levels of human-made carbon dioxide in the atmosphere create a greenhouse effect, which causes global warming. This phenomenon affects human health. A survey, however, suggests 43 percent of Americans don’t know about the health effects of climate change.

Human-produced gases destroy the ozone layer, allowing a higher degree of UVB light to enter the earth’s atmosphere. UVB is a type of UV rays that causes skin cancer, sunburns, and skin aging, among others. Only a small amount of UVB enters the earth’s surface because the atmosphere blocks out most of it.

Since more UVB reaches the earth surface due to the compromised atmosphere, exposure to stronger UV radiation increases. Although the country approved the Montreal Protocol — an international treaty that aims to stop the production of ozone-depleting substances like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) — emissions of CFC-11 still increased.

Melanoma: A Serious Type of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer has different types, including melanoma. The American Cancer Society (ACS) says that this only accounts for approximately one percent of skin cancers. The organization predicts the diagnosis of around 57,220 men and 39,260 women with melanoma in 2019.

Melanoma causes the majority of skin cancer-related fatalities. This type of cancer can develop in any part of your body. The length of one’s exposure to UV rays has been linked to the likelihood of developing melanoma, though scientists are still looking for how this happens exactly.

Protecting Yourself from Skin Cancer

woman with sunscreen

Limiting your sun exposure is the best way to lower your risk for skin cancer. But that’s no way to live life. When going out, make sure to apply a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Broad-spectrum and water-resistant sunscreens provide better protection.

Driving also increases your risk of skin cancer, especially on the area that gets more UV exposure when driving. Consider tinting your car window to protect yourself from UV rays while driving in Phoenix. Window films contribute to blocking UV rays while on the road. Opt for a transparent film so it won’t affect your vision when driving.

Additionally, the ADD suggests having regular skin self-exams to identify signs of skin cancer early. It says that some types of skin cancers, including melanoma, are often self-detected. You can consult a dermatologist to know how often you should perform a skin test, depending on your skin type, family history, and history of sun exposure.

The ACS says that melanoma and other cases of skin cancer have been increasing for the last 30 years. Although other factors contribute to the development of skin cancer, excessive sun exposure is a major cause. Everyone, therefore, should work together to fight climate change. Not only it will lower the risk of skin cancer, but it would also make the world a healthier place.

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