Posted June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized
As the summer sun heats up in South Florida, it’s important to protect your skin as much as possible. A sunburn can be extremely painful, but is far from the greatest risk of sun exposure. The harmful UVA and UVB rays from sun exposure accelerate the aging process in the skin resulting in hyperpigmentation, increased wrinkles, and most importantly, increased incidence of skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common cancer with more cases diagnosed each year in the United States than all other cancers combined.
There are some misconceptions regarding sun exposure and skin cancer. You can’t get a sunburn on a cloudy day. Clouds only block some of the harmful ultraviolet rays, so a sunburn is still possible. You can’t get skin cancer where the sun doesn’t shine. Skin cancer can appear anywhere on the body, including the hands and feet. Skin cancer only affects light-skinned people. Those who are fair, are at increased risk, but anyone can get skin cancer. Using a tanning bed occasionally is safe. The United States Department of Health and Human Services and World Health Organization have classified a tanning bed as a carcinogen and research suggests that even one session may increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Some sun exposure is essential to Vitamin D metabolism; however, excessive exposure or unprotected exposure can be very harmful. Sunscreen is the obvious first step in protecting your skin. Broad spectrum is best. The FDA requires sunscreen manufacturers to prove that sunscreens protect against ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which are the primary cause of sunburn as well as Ultraviolet A (UVA) rays, which can cause premature aging of the skin. Both types of rays have been associated with the development of skin cancer. Choose SPF, or sun protective factor, of 15 or greater. This number system is a measure of how effective a sunscreen is at blocking UVB rays and reveals how much longer you can remain in the sun safely with sunscreen on, as compared to being in the sun with no sunscreen.
Application is also important. Your sunscreen must be applied in adequate amounts to achieve the SPF rating on the label. Most individuals don’t apply enough sunscreen. The recommended amount is 2 mg./cm², which translates to using 1 fluid ounce for an average adult – roughly 1 shot glass or 2 tablespoons worth of sunscreen for face and body. Patients who are concerned about obtaining enough sun exposure to make Vitamin D should be aware that current research indicates that 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to the mid-day sun, 3 times a week is sufficient to synthesize enough Vitamin D to meet our body’s needs.
You should apply sunscreen to dry skin at least 15 minutes, ideally 30 minutes, prior to sun exposure and every two hours thereafter – more often, if you are in water or sweating. If a sunscreen claims to be water-resistant, the label must specify whether it will remain effective for 40 or 80 minutes when exposed to water. Photoprotective clothing, which blocks ultraviolet rays, is more widely available. Additionally, remember to protect lips, wear sunglasses with UV protection and wear a wide-brimmed hat. Finally, it is important to get your skin checked periodically by a board certified physician.