Many people enjoy getting some sun, especially during the spring and summer. While sunlight makes people feel good, too much of it can be dangerous. Every year, over 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed, and over 90 percent of those are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Excess sun also causes the skin damage typically associated with aging like wrinkles and discoloration. Given that, people need to use caution when enjoying the sun. Here are some guidelines.
Avoid exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The sun’s rays are strongest during these hours. If you have to go outside, carry a sun umbrella or stay under something shady like a leafy tree or pavilion roof. Save outdoor activities like running or going to the beach for the evening or early morning.
Don’t let yourself get a sunburn
Just one sunburn increases your chances of developing melanoma, the most lethal type of skin cancer. Having five or more sunburns doubles that risk. If you see or feel your skin start to redden, get out of the sun.
Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30
SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor and it indicates how long skin with sunscreen can be exposed to the sun’s UVB rays before burning compared to skin without sunscreen. For example, a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 keeps the user from getting burned longer than they would if they didn’t use it. SPF 30 sunscreen filters out 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.
The best sunscreens offer “broad spectrum” or “UVA/UVB,” which means they filter out UVA rays as well as UVB rays, and UVA rays are the ones that age your skin. Sunscreen should be worn every day, no matter what the weather. Ultraviolet rays can travel through clouds, so overcast days are not “safe” in terms of sun exposure. Put the sunscreen on 30 minutes before going outside and reapply it at least every two hours. Reapply it more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating heavily.
Wear long sleeves, a broad-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses when outside
Densely-woven fabrics with bright or dark colors offer the most protection. A thin white T-shirt, for instance, offers an Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF of only 5, which means the shirt filters out only 80 percent of the UV rays. Some clothes are actually designed to protect against the sun’s rays. Look for clothes with a UPF of at least 30.
Hats with brims that are at least 3″ protect the face and the back of the neck. Wrap-around sunglasses can block at least 99 percent of the sun’s rays and thus protect the eyes. That protection prevents the development of cataracts and melanomas on the eyelids.
Examine your skin from head to toe every month
Stand in front of a full-length mirror and look yourself over. Use a hand mirror to check your back and other hard-to-see places. Look for changes of any kind. They include open sores that don’t heal within two weeks. Also be suspicious of moles that change color, are asymmetrical, are bigger than 6 mm, are multicolored, or change in size or thickness.
At New England Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Center, we offer treatments for skin cancer and many of the aesthetic concerns that accompany prolonged sun exposure. While prevention is always the best line of defense, we understand that sun damage, wrinkles, lines, and spots can still occur. Contact New England Cosmetic Surgery and Laser Center to schedule your consultation with Dr. John Lazor. Together, we’ll create a treatment plan that’s right for you.