While everyone on the planet – no matter their skin tone, geography, age, or gender – is at risk of developing skin cancer due to prolonged and unprotected sun exposure, we in Colorado find ourselves especially susceptible to damaging UV (ultraviolet) radiation thanks to our extra mile above sea level.
According to a report published by the Colorado Health Institute, those of us who live at higher elevations are at a much greater risk of developing skin cancer than are those who live at lower, more normal elevations. Fortunately, there are safeguards that Coloradans – as well as all people across the world – can take to keep our skin safe while we enjoy the beauty and splendor of our natural surroundings.
How Increased Altitude Affects Our Skin and Risk of Skin Cancer
For any resident of Colorado who has previously lived at or near sea level, such as Florida, it will come as no surprise that one of the most widely known characteristics of our state is its thin air due to the high elevation – and the effect it has on our breathing and energy levels.
What may be lesser known is that the higher elevations of Colorado result in a depleted atmosphere – and in environments with lower atmosphere, UV radiation is increased exponentially. In fact, for every 1,000 meters of elevation gain, UV levels are increased by approximately 10%. With Colorado’s lowest elevations far exceeding 1,000 meters – and many of our higher communities are at three times that altitude – it is vital to our skin health and overall well-being that we take extra steps in protecting our skin from the sun. Damage from UV exposure increases our risk of developing skin cancer.
UV Radiation Is Ever-Present
There are different forms of UV radiation. While they can all cause damage to the skin, some forms are harder to block than others. UVA rays, for instance, penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays, which are associated with skin burning; and UVA light is known to cause damage at a genetic level – resulting in premature aging of the skin and various forms of skin cancer. Additionally, UVA radiation easily penetrates many of the things we typically think of as providing sun protection, such as clouds, glass, and most clothing.
For these reasons, it is important to rethink our relationship with the sun, particularly avoiding sun exposure during peak hours and using sunscreen daily.
Sunscreen Application: All Day, Every Day
In the past, sunscreen was considered as something to be applied during vacations or prior to a day spent hiking in the mountains – something to be stowed away among the beach towels, out of sight, only to be used during special circumstances. The science behind skin cancer was not previously well-known to the public, so the biggest fears surrounding unprotected sun exposure related to unsightly and painful sunburns. Today, with all the information we have on the key role the sun plays on developing life-threatening skin cancers, it is time that we consider utilizing the single-most-important tool we have for keeping our skin cancer-free: sunscreen.
Every day, applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF rating of 30 or higher – such as clara’s UV Luxe or the VanguardMD line – is integral to fostering optimum skin health and preventing unnecessary damage. The sunscreens offered through clara and Vanguard have been formulated specifically with this need in mind; they contain ingredients that are designed for touch-up application throughout the day without leaving behind a greasy or powdery finish which is often associated with sunscreen.
Don’t Forget to Schedule Your Yearly Skin Exam
The importance of an annual total body skin exam cannot be overstated. Vanguard’s dermatologists and dermatology advanced practitioners recommend that all adults get a thorough skin exam once a year. Those with a personal history of skin cancer may need more frequent checks. Fortunately, most skin cancers are 100% curable if detected and treated early.
If you would like to schedule your yearly skin exam, or if you want to learn more about how this quick and easy appointment saves countless lives every year, call (719) 355-1585 today or fill out our appointment request form online now. We look forward to seeing you!
Vanguard Skin Specialists began as a Colorado Springs dermatology practice and now has additional offices in Canon City, Pueblo, and Woodland Park. Vanguard specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer, and we also offer general dermatology, plastic surgery, and aesthetic medicine.