Protect yourself from the sun this summer - April Avison

Most people are pretty stupid when it comes to taking care of themselves. We eat too much, we don't sleep enough and we think we're immune to deadly diseases.

On any given day one can visit a neighborhood pool in Georgia and find some of these stupid people all lathered up in baby oil – but no sunscreen – soaking in the sun's rays for hours. They don't care if they get sunburned because if they're lucky, that burn will turn into a tan.

But if they're not lucky, it will turn into skin cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, skin cancer is a disease in which cancer (malignant) cells are found in the outer layers of your skin. Your skin protects your body against heat, light, infection, and injury. It also stores water, fat, and vitamin D.

Sunburn and UV light can damage your skin, and this damage can lead to skin cancer. Most people receive 80 percent of their lifetime exposure to the sun by 18 years of age.

But we don't pay attention to all the warnings because skin cancer is so slow to develop. The sunburn you got as a teenager may take 20 years or more to become skin cancer.

Another contributing factor is heredity. If there is a history of skin cancer in your family, you are probably at a higher risk. People with fair skin, with a northern European heritage appear to be most susceptible.

Most of this information isn't coming as a surprise. We know these things. We've been told a million times to wear a straw hat at the beach and use sunscreen with a high SPF. But for some reason, we just don't care.

It's amazing to me that the same women who try so hard to diet and exercise won't take care of their skin. It's actually easier to take care of your skin than it is to diet and exercise. So why do we have such a hard time putting on sunscreen?

The truth is, it's better to be a little pale in the summertime than to suffer from skin cancer later in life. It's not a difficult thing to prevent. It's not too much to ask to put on sunscreen before going out in the sun, to limit your time outside and to wear a hat and sunglasses. You may not be projecting the image of the bathing beauty on the swimsuit commercial, but at least you have a better chance of avoiding skin cancer.

April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Mondays. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at aavison@henryherald.com.