How To Have Fun In The Sun—Safely!
Follow a few helpful hints to keep sunburn and melanoma risk at bay this summer.
You’re ready to shed the sleeves and feel the sun on your skin, but remember to act smart and safely when taking in the rays—whether you are sitting poolside, relaxing down the Shore or walking the dog in the morning. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. with one in five Americans developing a form of it by age 70. That’s a scary stat, but there is good news:
Skin cancer is one of the most preventable diseases, and when detected early, survival rates are high. By sharing tips from organizations like the American Cancer Society as well as following advice from doctors and dermatologists, you can protect yourself and loved ones from skin cancers like melanoma, the most common type. To commemorate Melanoma Awareness and Skin Cancer Awareness months, which began May 1, BERGEN has compiled a few helpful hints:
Monitor Moles. Atypical moles are a marker for increased risk of skin cancer. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) as well as medical dermatologists such as BAXT CosMedical in Paramus suggest following the ABCDEs of melanoma monitoring, as seen below in this Instagram post from ProActive Foot & Ankle Associates: A (asymmetry), B (borders of the mole are irregular), C (color changes), D (diameter of mole is greater than the size of a pencil eraser), E (evolving or changing appearance of the mole). Consult your physician if a mole exhibits any of the ABCDEs, and schedule annual skin cancer screenings with a board-certified dermatologist.
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Time It Right. The sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV), which cause skin damage and skin cancer, are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. so avoid direct sunlight during those hours if possible. Before you head out for the day, check the UV Index as you do with the day’s weather. The index is measured on a 1-to-11+ scale, and a higher number indicates greater exposure to UV rays. Use the shadow test to determine the strength of the sun’s rays: If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are at their strongest and are likely to cause sunburn.
Cover Up. If you do venture into the sun, limit the amount of skin that is exposed to UV rays. Wear shirts made of breathable material, a hat and sunglasses. Look for clothing with a high UV protection factor (UPF)—these garments are measured on a 15 to 50+ scale. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
Slather On Sunscreen. The American Cancer Society recommends sunscreen with broad spectrum protection and with SPF (sun protection factor) values of 30 or higher. The organization recommends using these products as directed, particularly applying enough and reapplying after swimming or sweating, as sunscreen does not offer complete protection. Remember to check expiration dates to ensure effectiveness.
Treat Sunburns. People can get sunburned whether they take precautions or not. To help soothe burns, take a cool shower, pat yourself dry and apply a moisturizer with aloe vera to trap moisture in your skin, according to the AAD. If blisters form (second-degree sunburn), allow them to heal and resist the temptation to pop them. Sunburn is temporary, but consult your physician if you have questions about it.