Keeping your skin and eyes safe from the sun is an important aspect of summer health and skin cancer prevention. Typically the result of exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. The good news is that skin cancer caused by sun damage can be avoided with proper precautions. Early detection and proper treatment also make it highly likely that those who are diagnosed can be cured. It is essential to take precautions to help prevent the negative effects of UV rays.
Here are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Use sunscreen. Sunscreen—which comes in many forms such as creams, gels, lip balms, lotions, ointments, sprays and wipes—with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming or sweating to help protect your skin from burning. Sunscreen is just a filter and does not block all UV rays, so it is important to combine sunscreens with other forms of UV protection.
- Step out of the sun. UV rays are present year-round, but their strength changes with the time of year and your location on the globe. Periodically taking a break from the sun to sit indoors or in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun is the hottest, will allow your skin to recover and help you avoid over-exposure.
- Put on clothing. While an “even tan” is something many people strive to achieve, covering your skin a few times during your summer outing is best for your health. A hat with a two- to three-inch brim that has a dark, non-reflective underside will protect the sensitive skin of your head and neck, and a t-shirt will protect your shoulders and chest. Cover as much of your skin as possible to avoid burning and dehydration.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses. UV rays can cause eye problems such as cataracts. The delicate skin around the eyes can be harmed by UV rays, making wraparound sunglasses labeled with “UV absorption up to 400nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” essential to eye health. These labels mean the glasses will block out nearly 99 percent of UV rays, whereas cosmetic sunglasses will only block about 70 percent. Unlabeled sunglasses likely provide no UV protection.
- Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps. The UV rays present in tanning beds and sun lamps can cause long-term skin damage that contributes to skin cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends using a sunless tanning lotion in place of tanning beds and sun lamps.
Regular skin examinations performed by a primary care physician or dermatologist can help to detect potentially harmful skin changes. Be sure to ask your primary care physician for a skin exam during your annual checkup. In need of a primary care physician? Visit www.mygbmcdoctor.com to select one who is right for you.
This webpage is for informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice or a substitute for a consultation with a professional healthcare provider.