Editor’s Note: This is a special guest post from Lisa Quale, Senior Health Educator at the Arizona Cancer Center Skin Cancer Institute. This post is part of our Sun Protection Weeks now happening. Through May 9th save 20% on select sun protection accessories from Buff, Tilley and Outdoor Research. Also, join us on May 3rd, 2012 for our Sun Protection Festival from 7pm to 9pm at our Speedway Location.
It’s almost May in Arizona and you know what that means…summer is here! With warmer days and more intense sunlight, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your skin from the sun. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer. Plus, these damaging rays can leave you with a painful sunburn! Luckily, too much sun exposure can be easily avoided. Now is a great time to start smart sun protection habits. Remember some simple sun safety tips while you’re outside this summer.
The best way to protect your skin from the sun is to cover up. Having a barrier between your skin and the sun’s damaging rays works better than most sunscreens. Wear long sleeves and pants. Choose dark colored fabrics and tight weaves. If you hold the fabric up to the light and can’t see through it, you’ve made a good choice! For the hot summer months, clothing with an ultraviolet protective factor (UPF) is ideal. These fabrics protect your skin from up to 99% of the sun’s damaging rays while staying cool. You can find clothing with the UPF rating at most sporting good stores. Remember to also wear a wide brimmed hat that covers your face, ears and neck, and sunglasses that filter out 99-100% of UV rays.
For any body parts not covered up with clothing, be sure to wear plenty of sunscreen. Here in the desert, it’s best to wear sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. This will protect your skin from around 97% of the sun’s burning ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Always choose a product with “broad-spectrum” protection. This will protect your skin from the damaging ultraviolet A (UVA) rays too. Most sunscreens need time to absorb into your skin, so put it on 20 minutes before you go outside. Also, sunscreens break down when exposed to sunlight, so if you’re going to be outside a lot in a day, remember to reapply every 2 hours. If you’re going to be swimming or sweating, choose a sunscreen that claims to be “very water-resistant”. These products protect your skin for up to 80 minutes. No product is water-proof, so remember to reapply when you get out of the water or when you’ve been sweating a lot.
Some other ways to protect your skin include staying out of the sun as much as possible between 10am and 4pm and seeking shade when you are outside. Try using an umbrella to shade yourself from some of the sun’s intense heat. Also, avoid reflective surfaces. Water, glass, concrete and sand can bounce damaging sun rays around and make your exposure even more intense. Reflective surfaces can also bounce rays into shady areas and cause damage to your skin, even when you’re trying to be sun safe!
While starting sun protective habits now is very important, many of us already have a lot of sun damage that we may not be aware of. A few bad burns in childhood increases your odds of getting skin cancer later in life, and those tans we get are just as damaging! The good news is, when caught early, skin cancer is very treatable and usually curable. That’s why it’s so important to check your skin often for new or changing spots. If you ever find something suspicious, be sure to see your healthcare provider. If you have questions or need a list of local dermatologists, feel free to contact the Skin Cancer Institute at 1-888-724-2749 or visit our website at www.azskincancerinstitute.org.