Skin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. But by following some simple steps, you can enjoy time in the sun safely and protect yourself from overexposure, which can be dangerous. Excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can not only cause painful sunburns, but can also lead to more serious health issues, such as skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, and cataracts and other eye damage. Below are some tips to help make sure you manage the summer sun safely this year!
1. Wear Sunscreen – Apply it generously! Cover all exposed skin about 20 minutes before going outside. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15 with protection from both UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B rays).
2. Avoid Burning – Sunburns increase your lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, especially when you get burned as a young child. It’s best to try and minimize time (or stay out of the sun entirely) between 11am and 3pm when it is strongest.
3. Reapply Often – Reapply, reapply, reapply! At least every 2 hours, especially after swimming and/or sweating, even if your lotion is waterproof or the day is overcast. Always put sunscreen on first, before applying makeup or insect repellant.
4. Wear Protective Clothing & Find Shade – Choose long sleeves, broad-rimmed hats, sunglasses, and even pants, if possible when outside in the direct sun. Seek shade when you can and/or plan to bring an umbrella with you to create shade if none exists naturally in your environment.
5. Avoid Tanning/Tanning Beds – UV light from tanning beds (as well as the sun itself) can cause skin cancer and premature wrinkling. Best to avoid!
6. Use Caution Near Water, Snow, and Sand – These elements tend to reflect the sun’s damaging rays, which can increase the likelihood of sunburn. Always use sunscreen even on cool or cloudy days whenever you are near water, snow, and sand.
7. Check the UV Index – The UV Index is a forecast issued by the National Weather Service and EPA everyday. It’s a good resource to help you plan outdoor activities in order to minimize overexposure and prevent long-term sun damage.
8. Get Moles Checked – Early detection of skin cancer saves lives. Moles that are new or have recently changed shape or color should be evaluated by a dermatologist as soon as possible.
9. Vitamin D – Use caution when relying on sun exposure to get your Vitamin D. It is safer to get adequate amounts of Vitamin D from your diet – by eating foods that are well-fortified or through physician-supervised supplementation, rather than spending time in the sun without wearing any sunscreen (no matter what skin tone you have!)
Everyone looks forward to summertime, but it’s important to take the appropriate steps to protect yourself from overexposure to the sun.