Summertime requires defense against sun’s rays
Warm weather means an increase in outdoor activities, and during those events it's important to pay attention to sun protection for yourself and your family. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Taking steps to minimize your sun exposure and potential damage can reduce your risk of skin cancer later. There are a number of options you can employ individually or in combination, including:
Covering up - The sun can’t burn skin that isn’t exposed -- wear long sleeves, pants or a long skirt/dress, and a wide-brimmed hat made of a solid-weave fabric. To stay cool, choose loose layers and light-weight natural fabrics. A tighter fabric weave may offer increased protection. If you’re trying to keep small children in hats and long-sleeved shirts, be a role model and wear them yourself. Make hats and sun cover-up layers easily available near the door so you’re ready for a few minutes in the backyard or when you leave for an outing. If you plan to spend extensive amounts of time outside in the water, consider a long-sleeved swim shirt called a rash guard – many are available with UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) in the fabric.
Using sunscreen - The American Cancer Society recommends using sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or higher, and choosing one labeled “broad spectrum,” which means it protects against UVA and UVB rays. One application per day isn’t enough, either – reapply sunscreen every two hours. And although some brands may be described as water-resistant, that’s not the same as waterproof, so be sure to reapply on yourself and on children after swimming or sweating.
Seeking shade - Avoid being in direct sun when possible. Choose natural shade such as trees, or take advantage of picnic shelters, umbrellas or the shade from a building’s shadow.
Avoiding tanning - Skip the tanning bed or purposely baking yourself outside – there is no such thing as a safe tan. The change in your skin color is the result of skin damage.
Rocking the sunnies - Your eyes need protection from UV rays, too. Sunglasses reduce the risk of cataracts and protect the delicate skin around your eyes.
Dermatologists advise that it's important to think about how you spend your time outside and what combination of sun protection strategies are right for you and your family. When possible, opt for early-morning and evening activities when the sun is less intense, and try to choose shady spots for outdoor events.
A study in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention in 2014 concluded that as few as five bad sunburns before age 20 can predispose you to skin cancer, so pay attention to any changes in skin color or texture, new moles or existing moles with changes in shape or texture.
If you have questions about sun protection or skin changes, talk with your primary care provider or dermatologist, or visit cdc.gov and search “UV Safety.”