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Guide to Sun Protection

With the official start of summer quickly approaching, take a few minutes to make sure you’re well-prepped to enjoy the most of the great weather. Nothing ruins the good mood of summer like a sunburn or sun-related headache. Southwest Health has a few tips to share with you for getting the most of the summertime while staying protected from the harsh rays.

  • Avoid sitting in direct sunlight for long periods. While it might be tempting to position your chair directly under the warm sun, seek a shady spot like under a tree or umbrella. You’ll be able to enjoy the weather and summer activities for longer since you won’t get as heated. Specifically, the sun is the most intense between 10 am and 2 pm. Avoid extended direct sunlight during that time.
  • Wear protective clothing such as sun shirts, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. Protective clothing, along with sunscreen, helps keep you safe from the sun.
  • Always wear sunscreen when outdoors. The key is to wear an SPF of 30 or higher. Apply at least 15-30 minutes before outdoor activity and bring sunscreen with you to reapply as needed. Keep reading for a comprehensive guide to choosing a sunscreen for your specific needs.

With over 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year, skin cancer is America’s most common cancer. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers. By sharing facts about the dangers of unprotected sun exposure and encouraging people to check their skin for warning signs, lives can be saved. Skin Cancer Awareness Month is a time to speak up about the dangers of skin cancer, share the facts and help save lives.

While the warm weather often catalyzes skin protection, you should really be thinking about your skin year-round, especially since skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. While it can develop at any age, the risk for skin cancer increases as you age. It is caused by various factors, including sun exposure and genetics. The good news is that if you catch skin cancer early, most types are treatable. Since early detection is essential, it’s recommended to have an annual dermatology provider perform exams to screen for skin cancer. A simple skin screening with your dermatology provider could save your life. It’s simple, easy, doesn’t take long, and can give you peace of mind.

Specifically, if you feel a mole is changing—don’t wait! If you start to notice a mole rapidly growing, changing colors, itching, or bleeding, you should have it evaluated. You should also contact your dermatology provider if you see a mole has a fading or unclear edge to its border, if it has multiple colors, if you develop a new mole as an adult, notice a dark line in or near a fingernail/toenail, or if one mole doesn’t look like the rest of your moles.

It is essential to know what to look for and what to do when an area of your skin is beginning to change. Doing monthly at-home skin checks and seeing a dermatologist could save your life by catching spots before they become life-threatening. If you have the following risk factors, you should especially consider making an appointment with your provider.

  • Frequent sun exposure or multiple sunburns
  • Having more than 50 moles
  • Having blue or green eyes with fair skin
  • History of skin cancer in your family
  • History of using tanning beds
  • History of radiation, chemotherapy, organ transplant, or immune-compromised

There are some effective, simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of sun damage and skin cancer. The best tool you have is to wear sunscreen. If you’ve never been a consistent sunscreen user or don’t know what to look for when trying to find the right sunscreen for you, there are a few tips and tricks to find the most effective sunscreen for you!

  • Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen containing Zinc Oxide or Titanium Dioxide. Broad-spectrum protects against ultraviolet (UV) rays, specifically UVA and UVB rays which can create lasting damage beneath the skin. Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide sunscreens are referred to as “physical” sunscreens, meaning they act as physical blockers of UV light. Typically these sunscreens leave a white appearance on the skin. This is a good thing!
  • Stick to SPF 30 or higher. While you can use a higher SPF, aiming for SPF or higher is the best chance you have at sun protection. Next time you’re buying sunscreen and can’t decide between SPF 15 and SPF 30, choose the higher SPF.
  • Reapplication is essential. Plan to put more sunscreen on every two to three hours or 80 minutes if you’re sweating or swimming, even if your sunscreen is labeled as “sport formulation” or “water-resistant.” It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re busing having fun in the sun so setting a timer for reapplication is a simple way to ensure you’re protected.

Southwest Health has two dermatologists who would love to give you peace of mind about any moles, spots, or freckles you are questioning. Call them at (608) 342-6285 to schedule an appointment.