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Sun safety to decrease chance of skin cancer

Sun Protection on the beach

Any long term exposure to the sun can cause damage to the skin. This damage can lead to early aging of the skin and skin cancers like melanoma. The only way to help decrease the chance of this happening is to make use of sunscreen and other protection.


Sun safety is always in season. There is a need to protect your skin from sun damage. Skin cancer is on the rise in the US and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates more than 72 thousand people have been diagnosed with melanoma, the most serious of the skin cancers, in 2013 alone.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays come from the sun along with the rest of the light. And it is these UV rays that cause damage to the skin. Spending time in the sun even with sunscreen applied can increase your risk for skin damage. The time to avoid is between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm when the sun is highest in the sky; UV is at its most concentrated state.

Using sunscreens that are effective against both forms of UV (UVA & UVB), and making sure to use at least a sunscreen with a SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or higher is a must to help protect your skin. It is important to remember that no sunscreen is waterproof and need to be reapplied often especially if swimming or sweating. And before going out in the sun even with sunscreen, if you are taking prescription medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if the medication may make you more easily burn. Medications like some diuretics can increase the chances of burning in the sun.

The American Academy of Dermatology has found 63% of teens felt they looked better with a tan and only three in ten said they used sun block every time they lay in the sun. For parents who fear slathering their children with sunscreen that could be absorbed through the skin, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends the use of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide sunscreen. Both have been used before as protection against diaper rash but many were put off by the film that was left behind. Now the process for making these compounds into sun block has created formulas with minimal residue left behind. For those people who burn after less than 15 min. in the sun it is recommended they use SPF 30 or higher; simply applying sunscreen is not enough.

Wear a wide brim hat outside, keep sunscreen and lip balm in the car or purse, avoid skin exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, and be aware of reflective surfaces like water, cement and sand. Remember you can still burn in cloudy or hazy days so use your sunscreen. And wear sunglasses that protect your eyes from UV rays as prolonged exposure can lead to cataracts and vision loss at an early age (Griffin, 2009a).

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And if you have children who are in need of protection, Dr. Kate Puttigen from Johns Hopkins Children's Center suggests make sure you check these things in your sunscreen. Make sure it is good for UVB as these are the rays that cause the most damage. This can be accomplished by making sure the sunscreen says it is either broad spectrum or multi-spectrum coverage. That the sunscreen is water resistant. All sunscreen will wear off but for children these will last longer than typical sunscreens. Reapply the sunscreen regularly. Depending on the activity it is recommended that it be reapplied at least every two hours.

Another thing to remember you can still get too much sun on a cloudy or hazy day. The UV rays are strong enough to burn your skin even on cloudy days. Remember with children it can take up to 12 hours after exposure to show the full effect. In other words if your child looks a little pink at bedtime, they could look sunburned by the next morning (Griffin, 2009b).

And lastly, is another concern that of indoor tanning beds. Many teens have started to use this kind of tanning as they feel they look better with a tan. While many facilities have age limits on who can use these beds, it is recommended no one under the age of 18 be allowed access to them. Tanning beds or booths are an intentional exposure to UV rays and can be very damaging to the skin. This type of tanning raises the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma and basal cell carcinoma significantly as well has hastens the effects of aging on your skin (CDC, 2018).

Works Cited
American Skin Association (2012). Sun Resources for Safety. http://www.americanskin.org/resources/safety.php

Centers for Disease Control and Protection (2018). Intentional UV tanning. CDC Skin Cancer. http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/intentional-uv-tanning.htm

Griffin, R.M. (2009a).Sun Exposure: Avoiding Sunburning and Skin Damage. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/features/sun-safety-sunscreen-and-sun-protection
Griffin, R.M. (2009b). Sun safety: sunscreen and Sun Protection. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/beauty/deatures/sun-safety-sunscreen-and-sun-protection

US FDA (2018). Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun: From Sunscreen to Sunglasses. https://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm049090.htm