Summer is just around the corner and many of us are excited about the warm weather and sunshine. Because of the long winters and great local beaches, most New Englanders look forward to spending time outdoors in the sunshine. However, without adequate protection, the sun can be very dangerous. Skin cancers, such as melanoma, are a huge concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) there are 47,000 new cases of melanoma each year. But, melanoma causes 79% of skin cancer deaths. These sobering statistics emphasize the importance of protecting yourself while still enjoying the sun. Some sun safety tips are:
- Always wear sunscreen. You should always wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days. It is important that it have an SPF of 15 or higher. Put on sunscreen at least 30 minutes before you plan to be in the sun; this allows time for the sunscreen to be absorbed into your skin. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours.
- Re-apply sunscreen. Sunscreen must be reapplied throughout the day. It is very important to reapply after sweating, swimming or drying off with a towel. All of these activities actually wipe off the sunscreen you have applied.
- Check the expiration dates. Sunscreen can expire and usually products have a listed expiration date. If there is not a date listed, you can use the sunscreen for 3 years. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration requires a 3-year effectiveness for sunscreen.
- Avoid the sun during the middle of the day. The atmosphere does not absorb as many harmful UV rays during the middle of the day. That is way it is important to avoid the sun between 10a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear sunglasses and protective clothing. Sunglasses help to shield your eyes from the direct sunlight. A wide-brimmed hat is a great way to protect your face from exposure to sunlight.
- Avoid tanning. Having a tan, may look good now, but in the future can lead to wrinkles and age spots. There is not any safe way to tan. A tan is actually your body’s way of telling you the sun has injured your skin.
- Be careful of tanning products. If you must tan, be aware of the products you are using. Not all tanning products contain sunscreen. Make sure to check the label. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) requires a warning on tanning products that do not contain sunscreen or protect against sunburn.
- Spend time in the shade. You can still enjoy the warm weather and sunshine without being directly exposed to the sun.
- Carefully monitor your skin. If you notice any growths, bleeding or changes to your skin, it may be early signs of skin cancer. Skin cancer is highly treatable if caught early.