The summer sunshine is coming and you know what that means: longer days, beaches and sunscreen.

While we may only think about applying sunscreen at the beach or when we are outdoors for a long time, it is important to know that sunscreen is a surefire way to prevent damage to your skin.

Sunscreens are a mixture of different materials that is applied on the skin in order to prevent ultraviolet (UV) rays that are emitted by the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation says that UVA and UVB radiation can increase the risk of skin cancer and milder conditions like sunburn or aging effects to the skin. UVA rays are larger and tend to affect deeper levels of the skin, while its counterpart, UVB is typically the cause of surface damage.

When most think about skin cancer, melanoma is what comes to mind. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that this variant of cancer is the most lethal of those that affect the skin. It also reports that exposure to UV radiation from the sun or from tanning beds are common causes. In that case, perhaps it is worth it to forget about that tan after all. While it is treatable if caught in its early stages, melanoma can spread to other parts of the body, increasing its lethality.

There are multiple types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, which is considered to be the most common form of skin cancer. The foundation states that while it is not as lethal as melanoma, it is still better to avoid it as best we can. Very rarely does this form spread to other areas, but it is possible. It can also lead to disfigurement of the affected area if left untreated. The foundation also notes that this form of cancer is the most common of all cancers.

So what does UV radiation do? It can damage the DNA within the skin cells and if the body fails to repair these, it can result in mutations and cancerous growth. Unfortunately, the foundation reports that melanoma leads to approximately 10,310 deaths annually.

On the plus side prevention methods are out there and available on store shelves. Great, now it’s time to find out which suits your needs. Two major factors with sunscreen is the sun protection factor (SPF) and whether it blocks both forms of UV radiation.

When you pick up a bottle or tube of sunscreen it will have a number. This SPF number indicates how long it will prevent the skin from reddening from the sun. For example: the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that sunburns can begin in about 20 minutes for unprotected skin. A sunscreen with SPF 15 would lengthen that amount of time by 15 times, or would provide about five hours of protection.

It is recommended that anyone over the age of six months should use sunscreen that protects against both forms of UV radiation. The strength of the SPF would be dependent on how much time is spent outside. For those who work outside,a waterproof product is recommended.

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