Sunlight has many mental and physical health benefits. Get these benefits and reduce your risk of developing skin cancer by protecting yourself from the sun’s UV rays.
By Dr. James R. Nitzkorski, Surgical Oncology, Nuvance Health
Warmer weather means more fun in the sun, which is great because sunlight has many health benefits. Sunlight can boost your mood, strengthen your bones and promote the production of Vitamin D — an essential vitamin.
However, too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays causes most skin cancers — the most common type of cancer. UV rays also cause premature skin aging and sun-damaged skin. UV rays come from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps.
Outdoor activities can be all fun and games if you take steps to protect your skin. Here are five ways to keep your skin safe while enjoying the sunshine.
One: Wear sunscreen — and reapply it!
Whether it is sunny or cloudy, apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 about 30 minutes before going outside. Use a “broad-spectrum” sunscreen, which protects against UVA and UVB rays. Then, reapply it about every two hours, especially if you are sweating or swimming.
Two: Cover up with sun-protective clothes and accessories.
Covering up can help protect against UV rays, particularly for babies, young children and seniors.
- A hat will protect your head and face from the sun, and provide shade to help you stay cool.
- Light-colored, lightweight cotton fabric shirts and pants can block the sun’s UV rays and help you stay cool.
- Do not forget about your eyes and lips! Wear sunglasses with UV protection lenses that are UV400. Apply an SPF lip balm and reapply it throughout the day.
Three: Consider the time of day.
The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 am to 4 pm, so be especially careful outside during this time.
Four: Check your skin.
Get to know your skin so you can identify any changes. Like most cancers, early detection is key when it comes to treating and beating skin cancer. Nearly 99 percent of all skin cancers can be cured if they are diagnosed and treated early enough.
Learn the ABCDEs of your moles:
- Asymmetry: Not uniform — one-half looks different from the other
- Border irregularity: Uneven shape
- Color: Different color or an irregular pattern
- Diameter: Bigger in size, in particular, larger than 6mm
- Evolving: Changing color, size, texture or starts to bleed
See your doctor if any of your moles show signs of the ABCDEs.
Five: Get the straight facts on skin protection from trusted sources.
There is a lot of helpful information available online about skin protection. However, watch out for the following myths. You can also talk with your doctor if you have questions about skin protection.
Myth: Sunscreen is bad for you.
Fact: Studies show benefits from sunscreen use, including protecting the skin from the sun and reducing skin cancer risk.
Sunscreen is safe. However if you are concerned about wearing sunscreen, use “mechanical” sunblock such as zinc oxide, which is not absorbed into your body through your skin. You can also use a gel-based sunscreen rather than aerosol to prevent inhaling fumes.
Read the ingredients label on the sunscreen bottle to determine if you may have a reaction or sensitivities to an ingredient.
Myth: Base tans prevent burning
Fact: A base tan is no substitute for good sun protection. Studies show just one session of indoor tanning increases risk of skin cancer by 75% in people under the age of 35.
Bottom line: Warmer weather means more fun in the sun. Get the health benefits of sunlight while keeping your skin safe by applying sunscreen, wearing protective accessories and clothing, and knowing when the sun’s UV rays are strongest during the day. Take control of your skin’s health by learning the ABCDEs of your moles and getting information about sun safety from trusted sources.
Dr. James R. Nitzkorski is a fellowship-trained surgical oncologist. He specializes in treating melanoma, gastrointestinal cancers — such as colon cancer and rectal cancer — esophageal cancer, neuroendocrine tumors and rare tumors. Book an appointment online with Dr. Nitzkorski.
Dr. James R. Nitzkorski, Surgical Oncology, Nuvance Health