Hopefully, you are enjoying the nicer, sunny weather and taking precautions to protect yourself from skin cancer. Although it isn’t summer yet, we need to protect our skin from the sun to prevent skin cancer in the future.
Most of us get too much sun because we don’t take precautions. That’s why we are seeing so much skin cancer. Did you know that it is estimated that 90% of the new cases of skin cancer each year are preventable if we would just practice skin safety measures?
Follow these few simple practices to make a difference.
- Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen protects the skin from burning as quickly. Select a sunscreen with moderate to high protection with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 to 30. If your skin tone is fair you should use sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or above. Remember to apply it 10-15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two to three hours or sooner if swimming or perspiring on a hot day. Be sure to apply sunscreen on your children. It is best to keep infants and young children out of the sun as much as possible.
- Also protect your lips with lip balm that contains sunscreen. Some medications increase sun sensitivity so be careful if you are on medication.
- If possible stay out of the sun between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM when the Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the highest. Most weather reports are giving the sun intensity which is rated on a scale of 1-10. Anything above a 4 means we should be taking some precautions. Remember that even on cloudy days you can get sunburn so protect yourself. Avoid sunlamps and tanning salons as these also damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.
- Wear a broad brim hat. A three-inch brim is recommended to provide the best protection. Forget the baseball caps! They do not provide protection for the ears and back of the neck. A sun safe hat is dense enough to block UV rays from the sun. Tight dense weaves are best.
- Wear sunglasses that filter out the UV radiation. They should provide 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. Not all sunglasses do so check carefully. UVA and UVB protection is clear and not determined by the color of the sunglasses.
- Consider clothing choices. Long sleeve shirts and pants provide additional protection but can be hot on warm days. Looser styles and woven rather than knits are usually cooler to wear. Light colors provide the least UV protection. A wet white T-shirt is no protection against UV rays. Darker colors provide a high UV protection but are hot to wear, so find a medium color, which will provide some protection with comfort. Detergents with optical brighteners can increase the UV resistance of fabrics. This can help provide some extra protection, but you still need to wear sunscreen.
Making some changes can help reduce your risk of skin cancer and damaged skin, which gives the wrinkled leathery look as you age. You can enjoy the warmer, sunny weather and still protect yourself if you follow these precautions.
(References: American Academy of Dermatology web site http://www.skincarephysicians.com/skincancernet/prevention.html; American Cancer Society (2012) Web site http://www.cancer.org; Skin Cancer Foundation (2012) Web site http://skincancer.org
Author: Pat Brinkman, Extension Educator