Jun 29, 2015

Enjoy the Outdoors. Be Sun-Smart!

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Sunscreen and Sun Safety at a Glannce

Why should you bother with sunscreen? Two words: skin cancer. The alarming rate at which skin cancer is increasing demonstrates our need to do a better job protecting our skin. You have your skin for life, so you need to do all you can to limit UV damage and lessen the likelihood of developing skin cancer, as well as advanced signs of aging like wrinkles and sun spots.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and American Society of Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with 3.5 million cases diagnosed each year. There are over 9,000 deaths from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Much of this is preventable.  

The CDC reports that only 14.3% of men and 29.9% of women are applying sunscreen on a regular basis. How can these statistics be improved? By learning the basics and creating a sun-safe routine to incorporate into your life.

Sunscreens are meant to protect your skin from the sun’s UV rays. The UVB rays are responsible for creating sunburns. The UVA rays penetrate the skin deeper and are responsible for increasing signs of aging and cell mutations that potentiate skin cancer. Ideally, you want protection from both UVB and UVA rays, and that requires a broad-spectrum sunscreen and sun safe practices.

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Sun proof factor (SPF) refers to how long a sunscreen will protect you from UVB rays. For example, an SPF 15 protects you against about 93% of incoming UVB rays and SPF 30 blocks against about 97%. No sunscreen will protect you 100% and therefore one must add sun-safe choices to aid in skin protection.

The American Academy of Dermatology, CDC, ASDS and Skin Cancer Foundation offer a number of sun-safe strategies, including the following: 

1.  Pick a sunscreen you like—you are more likely to regularly use it. A minimum of SPF 30 and broad-spectrum to protect against both UVB and UVA rays.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) and Consumer Reports have evaluated many sunscreen products on the market to help define which sunscreens might serve you best. See the full article on Consumers Reports “2015’s Best and Worst Picks” for sunscreen based on the in house lab testing.

2. Apply sunscreen 15-30 minutes prior to going outdoors to allow enough time for sunscreen to penetrate the skin.

3.  The majority of people do not apply the recommended amount of 1 shot glass full to achieve the SPF on the bottle. Apply and then apply a little more.

4. Don’t forget your nose, ears and lips. These areas are often quickly skipped over when applying sunscreen and have a high rate of skin cancer incidence.

5. Reapply every 2 hours or anytime you have been in the water. Sunscreen degrades when exposed to sun’s rays or is washed off in water, even the “water-resistant” type.

6. The ideal time to be outdoors is before 10:00 a.m. or after 4:00 p.m. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 and 4.

7. In addition to sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed tightly woven hat, sunglasses and sun protective clothing. Look for UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) in the garment: the fraction of UV rays that can penetrate the clothing. Read more here from testing Consumer Reports did on UPF clothing

8.  Enjoy your time outdoors, but be wise!

ZALEA original content written and edited by Dr Lori Brightman

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