Those elusive summer months have arrived: longer days, blooming flowers—and lots of sunshine.
There’s nothing like the feel of the summer sun, but even small amounts of time outside without proper protection can be dangerous for your skin, including the short walk to the mailbox or driving in your car to work. In the United States, 1 in 5 Americans will have skin cancer before age 70, and the best way to avoid falling into that group is to take all necessary precautions.
Know that you’ll be exposed to the strongest UV rays between the hours of 10 AM - 4 PM, so plan your days accordingly. Of course those are prime recreation hours, especially during the summer. If you and your family will be spending that time outside, regular application of sunscreen is essential.
And remember—not all sunscreen is created equal, and you may have to try a few before you find one that works best. Between the standard moisturizer, sports spray, or sunscreen stick, there’s lots to choose from, and the type isn’t as important as frequent reapplication and SPF: sun protection factor.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, that number next to the SPF tells you how long it’ll take for your skin to start turning red while wearing that sunscreen verses how long it would take if you weren’t wearing sunscreen. In other words, if you use SPF 30 and apply it exactly as the product tells you to, it would take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.
That goes for spending time in the shade, too. Taking refuge under a tree doesn’t offer complete protection, and even on sunporches or shaded patios, the sun’s rays can reflect off glass or concrete. That’s why the Skin Cancer Foundation suggests using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on a daily basis, and increasing the SPF if you’re going to be outside for longer periods of time.
Also consider what you’re wearing when the UV rays are strongest. Most swimwear lines produce long-sleeved shirts in bathing suit material, so you can invest in an added layer of protection without overheating in long-sleeved clothing. The World Health Organization recommends a wide-brimmed hat to shield your entire face, as well as the back of your neck, along with sunglasses to reduce eye damage.
While no method is perfect, remaining vigilant is key to protecting yourself. And, perhaps most importantly, skin cancer is highly treatable when it’s caught early. Make sure you’re conducting monthly skin self-exams to look for suspicious spots all over your body—even in the spaces between your toes.
Your primary care physician can provide you with more information on self-exams, or offer recommendations on sunscreen and other forms of sun protection. If you’re in need of a primary care physician, please call the Saratoga Hospital Medical Group Patient Concierge at 518-886-5900.
Monday – Friday:
8:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Extended hours, by appointment:
7:30 Am – 8:00 AM and
4:30 PM – 7:00 PM
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