Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States; about one in five Americans will develop it at some point in their life. T main cause is sun exposure and sunburn. Unfortunately, a new survey from the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) has shown that Gen Z adults (aged 18-25) are unaware of just how dangerous the sun can be. It is especially important to bring awareness to Gen Z adults because people get an average of 80% of their lifetime exposure to the sun around this age.
Excessive exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays can cause healthy skin cells and collagen and elastin fibers to break down. This leads to visible skin aging and skin damage that can worsen over time with continuous sun exposure, natural skin aging, and environmental factors. UV rays also damage DNA in the skin, causing abnormal cells to mutate and grow. These mutations essentially are skin cancer.
The AAD surveyed over 1,000 Gen Z adults in the United States and discovered some alarming statistics regarding the lack of knowledge and misunderstanding about sun damage:
- 71% are unaware of sunburn risks.
- 40% are unaware of suntanning risks.
- 59% believe tanning myths are like a base tan to prevent burning.
- 20% said getting a tan was more important than preventing skin cancer.
Regarding these numbers, it is not surprising that 31% of surveyed adults had sunburns in 2022 and 41% of this group had severe sunburns that made clothing uncomfortable. What is surprising is the amount of concern participants continued to show regarding sun damage and premature aging. Although it is important to consider premature aging, skin cancer should be the bigger concern.
There are a few simple considerations that you can take to protect your skin and your health in the long term.
If you’re spending a considerable amount of time outside, try to spend time in the shade, especially between 10 am-2 pm when the sun’s rays are strongest. A good rule to follow is to look at your shadow and if it looks shorter than you, seek shelter.
Lightweight, long-sleeved shirts and pants with a wide-brimmed hat will keep your entire body (including the scalp) protected from the sun’s harmful rays. Look for clothing that has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) on the label and try to find sunglasses with UV protection.
A broad-spectrum sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 is a crucial component of sun protection. One thing that is too often overlooked is reapplication. Make sure to reapply every two hours, and after swimming or sweating while working out.
At Reflections Center for Cosmetic Medicine, our goal is to improve our patients’ overall health and wellness. Schedule a consultation today to learn more about sun protection and the treatments we offer to combat the damaging effects of the sun.