Dr. Catherine Rozario
McLeod Family Medicine Seacoast
(7/18/2013) - The skin is the largest organ of the body and often the most neglected. With the incidence of skin cancer on the rise, it is more important than ever to use adequate sun protection.
Summer is not the only time you are at risk for damage from the sun. Everyday exposure can be as damaging as sunbathing and the need for protection is year round. UV rays can reach us on sunny days as well as cloudy days, and can be reflected off of surfaces such as water, cement, sand and snow.
Apply a UVA or UVB sunscreen, SPF 15 or higher, every day when participating in outdoor activities. For extended outdoor activity, use SPF 30 or higher. The sun's UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, so be sure to put on sunscreen before you go outside. Apply a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Because sunscreen wears off, reapply if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours, and after you swim or sweat. Also be sure to check the sunscreen's expiration date, and be aware that its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Choose loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric for the best protection from the sun's UV rays. Wet clothing offers much less UV protection than dry clothing. Darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. If wearing this type of clothing isn't practical, try to at least wear a tee-shirt or beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical tee-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.
Broad-brimmed hats offer the most protection for your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection. If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas or using sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
UV blocking sunglasses also offer extra protection from the sun's damaging rays. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection.
Finally, avoid indoor tanning. Indoor tanning has been linked with skin cancers including melanoma as well as cancers of the eye.
McLeod Family Medicine Seacoast is located at Seacoast Medical Park, Suite 100, 3980 Hwy 9 East, in Little River, beside McLeod Seacoast. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (843) 390-8320.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, www.cdc.gov.