You do your best to apply sunscreen in the summertime and don’t go anywhere near tanning beds. That’s all you need to reduce your risk of skin cancer, right?
If only that were true. The unfortunate reality is that guys can get sun exposure in several surprising ways, from hiking snowy mountaintops to their everyday commute to work. This is especially worrisome for guys, given that men are at a greater risk of developing melanoma, the most-deadly form of skin cancer.
To keep skin healthy and cancer-free, limiting your sun exposure wherever possible and wearing daily sun protection should be a top priority. Below are just a few places where guys often get sun exposure without realizing it.
1. Cloudy Days
Cloudy skies can give some guys a false sense of security which leads many of them to forgo their sunscreen entirely. Unfortunately, the risk of sunburn doesn’t diminish on an overcast day.
Although you might not see as much visible light on cloudy days, the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through the clouds and cause sun damage. Cloud cover may slightly reduce UV radiation, but make no mistake: you can still get burned, especially if you end up spending more time outside than you would on a sunny day.
While it may seem like overkill on a cloudy day, always apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before you go outside. This will give your sunscreen enough time to sink into the skin and maximize your protection.
2. Traveling in the Car
One of the sneakiest ways in which guys get sun exposure is by simply driving in their cars. It doesn’t matter whether it’s your 15-minute commute to work or a long road trip, the sun’s rays can shine through your car windows and burn your skin.
Your face will likely take the brunt of UV exposure while you’re driving, so be sure to apply a daily moisturizer with SPF to protect your face and neck from the negative effects of the sun. While you’re at it, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your arms, upper torso and thighs. Keep in mind that the sun can penetrate through clothes, so either wear SPF clothing or just be sure to apply sunscreen all over your body before a long road trip.
3. Snow Glare
It’s common for guys to forget to apply sunscreen in the colder months. While you might be bundled up enough to shield most of your body from the sun’s UV rays, your face is another story.
As if the sun’s UV rays weren’t deadly enough, the snow can reflect the glare from the sun and damage more than just your skin. When the sun’s rays are reflected into your eyes, this can result in a condition called photokeratitis, or snow blindness.
According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine, travelers who don’t normally live in snowy regions have a high risk of snow blindness. To reduce your risk, always wear eye protection that will block both UVA and UVB rays.
4. High Altitudes
Living or visiting areas with higher altitudes can expose you to stronger ultraviolet radiation. This is partly due to the thinner atmosphere found at higher elevations, which don’t absorb as many UV rays compared to lower elevations.
Living in high altitudes has been linked to an increased risk of melanoma. In fact, a 2011 study published in the Spanish journal Actas Dermo-Sifiliograficas confirmed that melanoma rates rose with higher altitudes, noting that the melanoma was most commonly found between 1400 and 1499 meters above sea level.
This doesn’t mean that you need to pack up and move to a lower elevation. By practicing sun safety every day, you can minimize your risk of skin cancer and keep skin healthy for years to come.
5. Working Outdoors
Roofers, landscapers, farmers, commercial boaters and other outdoor professionals generally can’t avoid the sun during the summer. Spending long hours in the sun can increase your risk of certain skin cancers and has been linked specifically to basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).
According to a 2012 study published in BioMed Central Cancer, continuous sun exposure (like you get with roofing and landscaping) was associated with BCC and SCC, while intermittent sun exposure was linked to melanoma. Although BCC and SCC aren’t considered as deadly as melanoma, you can still die from both if left untreated.
Snow isn’t the only surface that can reflect ultraviolet radiation. Water, sand and seafoam can also reflect varying degrees of UV radiation that can damage the skin and eyes.
If you enjoy waterskiing, surfing or any other water-related activities, it’s vital that you practice sun safety protection. Wearing a waterproof sunscreen is key to staying safe out on the water, along with reapplying it frequently. The generally agreed upon recommendation is to reapply every 2 hours for the best protection possible.
It’s also important to note that wearing a higher SPF won’t necessarily provide you with greater protection. In fact, wearing SPF 50 or 100 may give some guys a false sense of security which makes them more susceptible to sunburn.
7. Training in the Sun
If you’re a college athlete or diehard fitness enthusiast, training outdoors can be a welcome break from working out in an indoor gym. But while some vitamin D from the sun can do the body good, training in the sun can come with an increased risk of skin cancer.
To stay safe without sacrificing your workouts, cover up with SPF clothing and apply sunscreen all over your body. Also, don’t forget to wear eye protection. It’s possible to get skin cancer on the eyelids and in the eye itself!
If you can swing it, try your best to avoid training outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are at their strongest. It also doesn’t hurt to check the UV index scale for the day to see whether you need to take additional sun safety precautions.
As you can see, guys can get sun exposure at times when they least expect it. To reduce your risk of skin cancer and maintain healthy skin, making sunscreen a daily habit is essential.
Remember, skin cancer is unique in that it’s almost always preventable. By playing it smart and following sun safety practices, you can significantly lower your chance of developing skin cancer and avoid becoming another statistic.