Pharmacists Tara Storjohann and Jessica Wooster talk how to protect yourself from the sun

Sun Protection 101 55065218_l

Pharmacists Tara Storjohann and Jessica Wooster talk how to protect yourself from the sun. 

Summer has arrived, which means spending more time outside (most likely poolside) with friends and family. Increased sun exposure is a danger that we are often unaware of on a daily basis. Think of what you currently do to shield yourself from the sun, and chances are you might not be doing enough. Hopefully this article will share some tips on how to protect yourself from the sun this summer.

INCIDENCE

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States and it’s estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to a report of skin cancer incidence by Archives of Dermatological Research. Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the two most common forms of skin cancer, are highly curable if detected early and treated properly. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately one American dies from melanoma every hour. Early detection is key, as the five-year survival rate is 98 percent for people whose melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads.

RISK FACTORS

Exposure to natural and artificial ultraviolet (UV) light is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer. It is advisable to avoid use of tanning salons unless you plan to use the spray or airbrush tans, which do not use UV light. Risk factors for all types of skin cancer include skin that burns easily; blond or red hair; a history of excessive sun exposure, including sunburns; tanning bed use; immune system-suppressing diseases or treatments; and a history of skin cancer. According to a review of cancer statistics by Siegel et. al., people with more than 50 moles, atypical moles, light skin, freckles, or a family history of melanoma are at an increased risk of developing melanoma.

PREVENTION & DETECTION

Whether you plan to spend the day hiking, out on the water, golfing, or laying by the pool, it’s important to always use good sun protective measures. Because exposure to UV light is the most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers, The American Academy of Dermatology encourages everyone to protect their skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays by seeking shade, wearing protective clothing and routine application of sunscreen. Remember that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

SUNSCREEN

It’s recommended to use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more to all exposed skin at least 15 minutes before going outdoors. “Broad-spectrum” provides protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply sunscreen approximately every two hours, even on cloudy days, and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. Seek shade when appropriate. Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses where possible. Wearing more clothing is difficult to do in the warm summer months, but it is a method that ensures optimal UV protection.

MONITORING MOLES

Regular inspection of your skin and moles is key to detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages. Skin cancer warning signs include changes in size, shape or color of a mole or other skin lesion, the appearance of a new growth on the skin, or a sore that doesn’t heal. Make note of any spots when doing a skin check, and keep track of changes that occur such as an increase in size or change in appearance. If you notice any spots on your skin that appear to be changing, itching or bleeding, you should make an appointment with a dermatologist. According to the US Preventive Services Task Force, individuals with a history of melanoma should have a full-body exam by a dermatologist at least annually and perform regular self-exams for new and changing moles.

You may have heard of the ABCDEs of monitoring for skin cancer, which refers to the deadliest form of skin cancer, melanoma. Refer to the image for the ABCDEs to monitor for melanoma, which if detected early increases your survival risk immensely due to it being caught before it spreads to the lymph nodes.

In order to protect ourselves and loved ones, it is important that we protect our skin from the sun’s UV rays through adequate sun protection measures such as appropriate use of sunscreen, wear protective clothing, and seek shade especially during 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest. Don’t forget to monitor your skin and make note of any moles that you should keep an eye on for changes or growth. It’s possible to enjoy being outdoors this summer and be safe if you remember these tips.

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