Most skin cancers are linked to sun exposure, a risk factor that almost all of us can control by heeding a few common-sense precautions. While many of us have seen or heard these “sun safety” tips before, the fact remains that there will be approximately 1 million new cases of skin cancer this year in America. This tells us that not everyone’s listening yet.
- Try to avoid the midday sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. That’s when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is most intense. Even on hazy or somewhat cloudy days, 80 percent of UV radiation can reach you.
- Cover yourself when you’re outside for extended periods. Long sleeves are a good idea and a wide-brimmed hat can keep 70 percent of dangerous rays off ears, nose, face, and neck---areas where many skin cancers occur. Clothing, however, doesn’t completely shield your skin. A white cotton T-shirt has a lower sun protection factor (SPF) than many sunscreen lotions. Colored clothes with tighter weaves may offer greater protection.
- Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or more whenever you go out. Apply it 30 to 40 minutes before sun exposure and don’t be stingy---it takes about one ounce of sunscreen to cover your body. Because sunscreen breaks down, reapply it every few hours. This does not extend the amount of time you can safely stay in the sun, however. Wear waterproof sunscreen if you are swimming, but reapply it when you get out.
- Take extra care if you are using medications like antihistamines, tetracyclines, sulfa drugs, diuretics and some oral contraceptives---they can make your skin more susceptible to the sun’s rays.
- Protecting your children’s skin now through regular use of an SPF 15 sunscreen may decrease their risk of developing skin cancer by nearly 80 percent. Keep children under six months out of the sun---their skin is very sensitive to sunlight and sunscreen use at this age is generally not advised.
For more information on sun safety, please call Veterans Memorial Hospital at (563) 568-3411.
From the American Institute for Cancer Research and Veterans Memorial Hospital