Protect Your Skin This Summer

[avatar user=”dponieman” size=”thumbnail” align=”left” link=””]by Diego Ponieman M.D., M.P.H.[/avatar]

The sun is shining and the streets are getting warmer, which everyone knows means summer is just around the corner! Summer is a time for fun outdoor activities, spent basking in the sun. But did you know, you should protect your skin with more than just sunscreen anytime you’re outside?

As May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, it’s important to explain the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and understand how to protect yourself and your family this summer.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. In fact, more skin cancers have been diagnosed in the U.S. each year than all other cancers combined, and the number of cases has been going up over the past few decades. Most skin cancers are caused by an excess exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays primarily from the sun, but some come from man-made sources, such as indoor tanning beds and sun lamps.

The good news is there is a lot you can do to protect from UV rays, as well as to catch skin cancer early so that it can be treated effectively.

Here are some tips on how you and your family can avoid sun damage this summer:

  • Wear sunscreen. Consider sunscreen as the base to your skin cancer protection plan. Ideally, about 1 ounce of sunscreen – or enough to fill a shot glass – should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face of an average adult. Sunscreen also needs to be reapplied at least every 2 hours to maintain protections.
  • Wear hats and other skin-protecting clothing. A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim is ideal because it protects areas that are often exposed to intense sun. Also, wear clothing to cover your skin. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective, as well as dark colors and tightly woven fabrics. Some fabrics are also ultraviolet light (UV) blocking and are especially good if you are outside a lot during the midday when the sun’s rays are most intense.
  • Put on sunglasses. UV-blocking sunglasses are important for protecting the delicate skin around the eyes, as well as the eyes themselves.
  • Educate yourself on skin cancer. Find resources and get more information on the American Cancer Society’s Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection
  • Know your family history and risk for skin cancer. People with fair skin, light colored hair, and moles are at highest risk.
  • Avoid all tanning beds and artificial tanning equipment. Tanning lamps give out UVA and usually UVB rays as well. Both can cause long-term skin damage and can contribute to skin cancer.
  • Even on cloudy days, the UV rays can still put you at risk, so wear protection even when it is not sunny.

Also, simply staying in the shade is one of the best ways to limit your UV exposure. And remember if you are going to be in the sun, slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and slide on sunglasses to ensure you are best protected this summer!