So, you think you’re beating the sun, eh? Well, the facts prove you wrong. Incidences of skin tumors have risen 34% from 2004 to 2008, the latest figures available. At least 50 Costa Ricans per each 100,000 residents have suffered from it.
Although the mortality rate is relatively low — about six per month — it is still a dangerous situation, physicians say. In 2004, 1,600 cases were reported. But 2008, that figure had risen to 2,146.
The data comes from the National Tumor Registry and the National Institute of Statistics and Census. Researchers says that every day six new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed.
A little more than 45 men are diagnosed with skin cancer per 100,000 population as opposed to a little more than 42 women. This is probably due to the fact that housewives spend more of their time indoors out of direct exposure to the sun. But it’s the most common cancer in the women and the second most in men.
Dermatologist Sergio Cortes says that the effects of the sun are long term — three sunburns before the age of 20 raises the probability of getting cancer 80% by the time one is 60 years old. In fact, says Cortes, although most cases are found in persons over 60, he has seen cases develop in the teens.
Cortes considers suntanned skin as “sick” and notes that sun worshippers are more apt to get cancer. It also artificially ages the skin and causes dark spots to develop.
Dermatologists note that many people only use sun blocks at the beach. But in the mountains is where people get more ultraviolet radiation, since the air is “thinner” and has less pollution to deflect sun rays. According to the universal health care system here, at an altitude of 1,600 meters (about 4,000 feet) one gets 20% to 40% more UV radiation that at the beach.
Clouds only block half the sun’s UV rays so it is an error to assume that a cloudy day protects you. Moreover, the rays are more direct between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Another error is to assume that sun block begins to work immediately after application. Not so — apply it 20 minutes before going out into the sun.
Finally, if you think that swimming will protect you, be advised that the sun can penetrate 50 centimeters into the water. Moreover, sun blocks tend to wash off. Apply a new coat of lotion after swimming. If you simply toast on the sandy beach, apply the sun block every two hours.
Physicians recommend sun blocks of at least a 30 rating for best results. But don’t think that makes you immune to the sun, warns Cortes. It just slows down the amount of sun’s rays that beat on the skin.