Monday, May 2, 2011

Shedding Light on Sun Protection

May marks the start of warmer weather, blooming flowers and the promise of summer to come. It’s important to remember that May’s longer days and more intense sun can also leave us vulnerable to skin damage as we enjoy outdoor activities. Many people do not realize that sun exposure has a cumulative effect, and having any kind of skin cancer in the past – even if it was successfully treated – puts them at greater risk of developing it again. And remember that anyone can get skin cancer, even people with darker skin.

Here are some tips from the Melanoma Research Foundation to help you minimize harmful sun exposure while embracing the beautiful days ahead:

  • Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin—even on cloudy days—year-round.
  • Be sure to use a sunscreen that provides broad-spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays and has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
  • Use enough sunscreen. To protect your entire body, use approximately an ounce of sunscreen (about a full shot glass) and apply it at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.
  • Re-apply sunscreen every two hours and/or after swimming or sweating, even if the bottle says it’s waterproof or long lasting.
  • Remember, wearing sunscreen is not a blank check for spending unlimited time in the sun.

Sunscreen is just one component of sun safety. There are more ways to protect your skin:

  • Wear sun protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible. Look for clothing items that have SPF manufactured right into the fabric.
  • Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm.
  • Use extra caution near water, snow and sand, as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Do not burn. Severe sunburns, especially during childhood, increase your risk of developing melanoma and other skin cancer. Just one blistering sunburn can double your chances of developing melanoma later in life.
  • Avoid intentional tanning and indoor tanning beds. Current research indicates there is no way to get a tan through ultraviolet exposure without increasing the risk for skin cancer.
  • Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that includes vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun as a vitamin D source.
  • Be aware of medications that can increase your sensitivity to sunlight. Certain prescription and over-the-counter drugs have the ability to make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

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