Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Saving Skin from the Endless Summer Sun

Across the country the summer sun has been extremely intense, putting outdoor enthusiasts at a higher risk of sunburns and much more. The Skin Cancer Foundation estimates 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year across the United States.

"Skin cancer is affecting younger and younger people," explains Robert Miller, M.D. of WellSpring
Oncology. Recent studies suggest one of the main reason is 80 percent of people visiting tanning salons are girls and women aged 16-29. "Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for people ages 25-29. This is a disease you have to prevent from day one. Just one blistering sunburn in youth more than doubles your risk of melanoma," says Dr. Miller.

But Dr. Miller isn't suggesting skipping the outdoors entirely, just to be more prepared when heading out with these five tips.

Check the Clock
The summer sun gives off the most UV rays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dr. Miller suggests finding shade or staying indoors during these hours. "You don't have to be laying out to get a sunburn, even walking to and from your car can expose your skin to UV rays," Dr. Miller explains.

Block the Burn
No matter what time of day it is – remember to block the burn with sunscreen. Dr. Miller recommends SPF 30 for any outdoor activity. This will keep out about 97% of the sun's UVA and UVB rays and give  a safe way of enjoying the warm weather. Sunscreen should be applied one-half hour before going outside, giving the skin time to absorb it. Because sunscreen tends to be broken down over time by the sun, and rubbed or washed off with sweating and water exposure, it should be reapplied at least every two hours outdoors, and immediately after swimming or heavy sweating. At least one ounce (two tablespoons) is needed to cover the entire body surface.

Top off Your Look
Hats aren't just for fashion, according to Dr. Miller. Wide-brim hats provide protection for the ears, nose, shoulders and scalp from sunburns. "Shielding your eyes from the sun is also crucial to preventing any UV damage. So don't forget the sunglasses!" Dr. Miller warns.

No Tanning Beds
"Many used to think tanning beds were the safe way to get that summer glow," says Dr. Miller. "But now we know there is no safe tan." The Skin Cancer Foundation warns indoor tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma than those who have never tanned indoors. As a safe alternative, Dr. Miller suggests opting for spray-on tan instead.

Check the Mirror
"It's important to know your own risk factors," explains Dr. Miller. That includes fair skin, family history and prior blistering sunburns. Dr. Miller encourages self-exams by canvasing the skin and
looking for atypical moles or freckles and documenting any changes. "The faster we catch the cancer, the more likely we'll be able to eradicate it completely," Dr. Miller says.

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