Many people enjoy being outdoors during the summer months. However, the sunrays can take a toll on your skin if you’re not cautious. Over time, spending time in the sun without any protection can lead to skin problems from wrinkles and dryness, to cancer. Consider these facts:
- Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer — one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
- Basal cell carcinoma is the most common form of skin cancer and an estimated 3.6 million cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
- Malignant melanomas are the most serious types of skin cancer. They account for less than one percent of skin cancer cases, but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
- Studies show that most melanomas are caused by the sun. About 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86% of melanomas are attributed to UV rays from the sun.
- On average, your risk for melanoma doubles if you’ve had five or more sunburns, but just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles your chances of developing melanoma later in life. So it is important for you and your family to take precautions to protect yourselves against damaging sunrays.
- While darker skin color offers some natural protection from the sun, it does not make you immune to skin cancer.
Here are a few tips to enjoy your time in the sun, safely:
Limit exposure at peak times
The sunrays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During these hours, try to limit your time in the sun. Clothing and hats are also good basic protection from the sun.
Protect your eyes from the sun
The sunrays can also be damaging to your eyes and the surrounding skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that you wear sunglasses year-round. Also, hats with at least a three-inch brim can block almost half of all sunrays.
At the very least, use broad-spectrum sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15, though SPF 30 offers better protection. Remember to reapply sunscreen every one to two hours, even if you aren’t swimming or in the water.
Young children often have sensitive skin, so their protection from the sun is also important. Infants six months and younger should be kept out of the sun. Their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. But, using window shields in cars can protect them from direct sunlight. Children older than six months can use sunscreen, and it must be applied 30 minutes before going outside. Experts suggest spray sunscreens with tear-free formulations, making sure to avoid spraying near eyes. Children should also wear hats and sunglasses, and stay out of the sun during peak hours.
Avoid indoor tanning
Indoor tanning is not a safe alternative to outdoor tanning. In fact, the exposure to UVA and UVB rays can also lead to skin cancers, wrinkles, age spots and other changes in skin textures.