Summer has arrived and we can finally look forward to spending more time outside in the sunshine. However, the steady increase in skin cancer over the last 30 years can put a damper on ‘fun in the sun’ activities. Here are some easy steps to protect yourself and still enjoy the great outdoors:
If your activity allows for it, spend more time outside earlier and later in the day, avoiding the hours between 11:00 AM and 2:30 PM, when the sun is highest in the sky and the UV radiation is the strongest.
Cover up when you can. Wear light, thin weight clothing as protection during the hottest part of the day. Use a sun hat with a wide brim to protect your face and neck.
Wear sunglasses. UV rays from the sun can cause cataracts and UV protection sunglasses are your first defense against this.
Find a shady spot or put up a beach umbrella especially in the middle of the day. This is especially important for small children and infants whose skin burns easier and who are more sensitive to damage from the UV rays of the sun. Burns in very young children are a big risk factor for skin cancer at a later age.
Don’t burn at any age! A burn is a sign that you have had too much sun. It’s the sun ‘burning’ of the skin that is most directly linked to skin cancer.
Apply sunscreen when you will be in direct sunlight for longer than 10 – 15 minutes. While a very brief period of direct sunlight can be a health benefit by boosting your Vitamin D levels, any longer than this short time period leaves you vulnerable to burning. The lighter your skin color is, the greater your risk.
Choose your sunscreen wisely. Avoid sprays and powders, especially in young children, as the inhalation of these products may be a concern. Avoid products containing retinyl palmitate and oxybenzone, a xenoestrogen (mimics estrogen in your body). Look instead for the ingredients; zinc, titanium, avobenzone or Mexoryl SX.
Don’t forget to reapply your sunscreen when your time in the sun is extended past the allotted exposure time and after swimming or excessive sweating.
Fresh air, sunshine and activity are important keys to both mental and physical health. They also play an essential role in healthy weight loss. As long as you play ‘smart’ in the sun, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the warmer weather and longer days.