Sun, surf, and sand. The freedom of summer can’t be denied, and most of us are sun seekers during the summer months as the weather turns brighter and warmer. With the increased exposure to the sun’s rays, we are naturally absorbing Vitamin D, a key to a happy mood, health, and longevity. However, the risks of skin cancer coincide with this increase; exposure to one of nature’s vital sources just might not be a good thing.
Skin cancer is the most prevalent form of cancer in the United States, and the most common reason for its occurrence is overexposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays. Almost 1 million new cases of cancer are reported each year, and approximately 10,000 Americans will die from it. Overexposure to damaging sun ray’s is not the only cause of concern; studies have shown that tanning beds and sunlamps give off the same light, and can result in the same level of harm. In order to protect our skin, plenty of sunscreen and proective measures such as sunglasses and clothing can decrease our risk.
Excessive sun exposure will increase your risk, especially during the hours of 11 a.m.-3 p.m when the sun is at its highest. Those who are more at risk for skin cancer include light or fair-skinned individuals, heavy sunburns, a family history of skin cancer, and having light colored eyes. However, moles can develop regardless of these factors, and if they are changing or developing abnormally, this can be a sign of skin cancer.
Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more, and be applied every 2-3 hours, moreso if you are swimming or sweating. It is essential that all areas of the body that may have exposure to the sun be covered; there is no such thing as too much sunscreen! Protect yourself with these extra measures:
- Use a sun umbrella when walking or being outside for extended periods of time
- Wear a visor or cap to protect your face
- Use a sunhat to protect your neck and shoulders
- Stay in the shade when possible, but keep in mind that UV rays can still penetrate through clouds (and trees!)
- Wear light clothing to avoid overheating and irritating any sunburn
- Apply sunscreen to children and toddlers with care, and ensure that they do not have skin allergies; remember that fair-skinned children are prone to sunburn and freckles
- Always reapply sunscreen after swimming or sweating for more than an hour
- Be sure to check your skin sensitivities to various sunscreen products and brands
- Keep your skin well-moisturized in between showers and swimming; moisture helps our skin recover quickly and naturally from burns or rashes. Aloe is also a great addition for sunburned skin
We’ll never be completely safe from the sun, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay indoors! Follow these guidelines to protect yourself, and you’ll be confident that you have done the best you can. Also do spot-check your body frequently throughout the summer for moles or skin discolorations; if anything look suspicious, do check with your doctor. For those who can’t live without a glowing summer tan, try alternatives such as bronzers, tinted moisturizers, and self-tanning lotions and booths. Your skin will thank you!