By Dr. Drew Claudel, a registered dermatologist on MediBid.com
With warmer weather and sunny days almost upon us, this becomes a more common question from our patients as we go into spring and summer. Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer; but you can still have fun in the sun. You just have to be sun smart. Here’s how to do it:
Generously apply sunscreen to ALL exposed skin using a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher that provides broad-spectrum protection from UVA (ultraviolet A) and UVB (ultraviolet B) rays. A rule of thumb is to use an ounce (enough to fill shot glass) to cover the entire body in a swimsuit (most people use much less than this recommended amount; which is why an SPF of 30 may be a better choice). It should also be applied 15-30 minutes before going outdoors to allow it to bind to the skin and prevent overexposure one may get while waiting to put it on outside while unprotected. It should also be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or perspiring heavily as sunscreens rub off as well as wash off (even water-resistant brands) and some are actually broken down by the sun. You should get in the habit of sunscreen use every day you will be outdoors (even on cloudy days and fall/winter season); as many of the sun’s harmful UV rays penetrate clouds and car window glass. Most people also underestimate the amount of sun exposure they actually get in a typical week.
Wear protective clothing, such as long sleeved shirt, pants, wide-brimmed (3-4 inches) hat and sunglasses, when possible. There are more and more choices here with some clothing lines now designed solely for avid outdoor enthusiasts with many styles and more comfortable light weight fabrics.
Seek shade when appropriate, remembering the sun’s rays are at their strongest between 10a.m.-4p.m.
Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun and increase your chance of sunburn.
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light, whether from the sun or tanning beds, can cause skin cancer and premature aging of the skin. If you want to look tanned, consider a sunless self-tanning product or spray tan; but remember these won’t protect you from the sun. You will still need to apply sunscreen as usual when outdoors.
Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet and supplements. Don’t use the sun as your source.
Check your own body periodically. Especially if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer (should be done monthly). If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding, see your Dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.