The link will allow you access to the related reading.
How to protect your body’s natural armor
By C. Mark Brinkley - Staff writer
UVA vs. UVB: Know the difference
5 habits that can save your skin
Get smart: Sun protection boot camp
Gear test: 5 new sunscreens reviewed
You’re being stalked by one of the world’s deadliest assassins and probably don’t even know it.
No, it’s not an insurgent fighter hiding in the shadows. It’s not “The Jackal.” We’re talking about a real pro, that evil sniper in the sky.
People call him “the Sun.”
In 2007, more than 8,000 people in the U.S. will die from skin cancer, according to statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation. The sun can take credit for more than 90 percent of those deaths.
About a million new U.S. cases of skin cancer — including nearly 60,000 new cases of melanoma, the most deadly form — will be diagnosed this year. Sun damage is responsible for more than 90 percent of those, too.
Many of these victims will be former or current military members, whose years of exposure in some of the world’s harshest environments put them in particular danger of developing skin cancer down the road. Unless you do something about it now.
You need to up-armor your skin.
People come out of the womb wearing natural body armor, the thin layer of skin that protects all the healthy things on the inside from all the terrible things on the outside.
The largest of all the body’s organs (at roughly 20 square feet), human skin absorbs many of the sun’s ultraviolet rays and repairs damages caused by UV light. But these daily attacks often wear the skin down, sometimes causing skin cancer.
Unlike taking a bullet, the damage caused by years of sun exposure often isn’t realized until late in life.
“You don’t see too many active-duty soldiers with skin cancer,” said retired Col. (Dr.) Richard Keller, a longtime Army dermatologist now with Ochsner Health System in New Orleans. “It’s usually guys in their 60s and 70s.
“That’s the problem with skin cancer. You don’t see it right now. You see it years from now. And it’s hard to make a 19-year-old guy understand that.”
It’s not like most men moisturize, lotion and pamper themselves, especially not salty war-fighters at the tip of the spear.
Luckily, clothing protects most areas, especially given the Army’s new regulations for wearing the Army Combat Uniform. “Now that we’re in ‘sleeves down, all the time’ mode, that helps a great deal,” said Army Col. (Dr.) Joe Pierson, who serves as the dermatology liaison to the Army surgeon general and works as a dermatologist at Keller Army Community Hospital in West Point, N.Y.
Even a lightweight T-shirt manages to filter the majority of UV rays, especially if it’s tightly knit and a dark color, Pierson said. Helmets help too, and wide-brimmed boonie covers are a dermatologist’s dream.
“If we could encourage more use of it, that would be effortless,” Pierson said. “The boonie cap offers much more sun protection than the current beret.”
But that leaves arms, hands, faces and necks — the dreaded farmer’s tan — routinely exposed to the sun’s rays.
“You have to wonder, what can you do to put on their face that they will wear?” Keller said.
Hopefully they’d use some form of sunscreen, though many forgo slathering on a thick layer of goop precisely because it feels so, well, goopy. And, when the sweat starts pouring, the sunscreen often runs, too, getting into eyes and causing irritation.
But leaving your sunscreen at home is like taking the plates out of your body armor, dermatologists say. Keller often recommends children’s sunscreens for such situations, because they are usually formulated to prevent eye irritation.
“If you can get them to use it,” he said.
Recent breakthroughs in sunscreen technology have made them more effective than ever against damaging rays, according to information released by the Skin Cancer Foundation in July.
The sun fires off two types of damaging rounds: UVA and UVB rays. While UVB rays do the most damage to the outermost layer of skin — and are generally responsible for sunburns — UVA rays are the sun’s armor-piercing rounds, digging in deep.
Studies indicate that UVA rays tend to do more genetic damage than UVB rays in the deep skin layers where most skin cancers are found, according to the foundation. As a result, you need a sunscreen that protects against both.
These are known as broad-spectrum or multispectrum sunscreens, and thanks to advances in the past year, most sunscreen manufacturers offer a new product (or several) that protects against UVA and UVB rays for sustained periods. This protection is usually advertised clearly on the outside of the tube and generally comes with a higher price tag.
These sunscreens still come in a variety of SPFs, or sun protection factors, generally rated anywhere from 4 to 60. But that number applies solely to the UVB protection level, as there is no Food and Drug Administration-approved method for measuring UVA protection levels, according to the foundation.
SPF ratings can also be a little misleading, as an SPF 30 isn’t twice as effective as an SPF 15, for instance. Applied properly, SPF 15 filters out 93 percent of harmful UVB rays, compared to 97 percent for SPF 30 and 98 percent for SPF 50.
Generally, an SPF 15 is the bare minimum recommended by dermatologists. But that’s if it is used as directed and reapplied often.
“Get the higher number,” Keller said. “Most people don’t put enough sunscreen on.”