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One of the major risk factors for skin cancer is sun exposure. Put simply, UV light from the sun can damage skin cells, but can also cause genetic damage and suppress the immune system. Overexposure to the sun or episodes of sunburn during childhood are common risk factors for the development of basal cell cancers, while overexposure to the sun during your lifetime is a risk factor for squamous cell cancers. Those who work outdoors are at a higher risk, as they're exposed to sunlight for longer periods of time, although fair-skinned, freckly individuals are also at a higher risk. Black-skinned individuals are at a very low risk of skin cancer, although that doesn't mean they shouldn't wear sunscreen. Those who regularly use sunbeds are also at an increased risk. But why? Broadly speaking, that's because they UVA and UVB rays are absorbed into the skin.
Using a sunscreen will help to filter these rays - which is why applying one, every day, is so important.
Do I Really Have to Wear Sunscreen Everyday?
By now, you've probably heard that you should wear sunscreen everyday if you're going outdoors or sitting by a window. UVA/UVB rays can pass through glass and so even if you're sitting indoors all day, if you're by a window, you'll need to wear it. You might not think that it's necessary, you might not like wearing it, and you might fret about how much vitamin D you're taking in - but you really should wear it everyday. It's hard to quantify sun damage, as it tends to show up 20, 30 or even 40 years after the initial damage takes place. Although you could go out in the sun everyday all the way through your 20s and still have beautiful, radiant skin by the time you hit 30, by the time you hit 40, you'll regret not wearing sunscreen.
What is an SPF?
There is a lot of confusion about what an SPF actually is and how it can protect your skin. Quite literally, an SPF is a "sun protection factor".
So if you'd burn after 10 minutes of exposure without sunscreen, an SPF 15 will protect you in the sun for up to 150 minutes. However, research has shown that this calculation isn't always accurate, especially in SPFs over 30. Some research indicates that protection isn't necessarily greater in SPFs over 30, and although a slew of new SPF 70 products have recently hit the market there's not a lot of research to prove that they provide greater protection than SPF 30 products if applied frequently throughout the day. If you're in a particularly hot or humid country, do lots of exercise or swim, you'll also need to apply the SPF more frequently.