By Omar Ibrahimi, MD PhD
Summer’s upon us and we’ve heard this phrase before: “Fry now, pay later.” Yet, the warm rays beckon us to come out of hibernation and give into our natural vitamin D cravings. That sun-kissed glow… it’s good for you, right? Well, not so fast.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S. And it’s a no-brainer that sunburns and tanning raises your risk for it. Too much sun exposure can really damage your skin thanks to ultraviolet (UV) radiation. It can cause your skin to age prematurely and also harm your eyes. What’s more, it can lead to melanoma, the deadliest kind of skin cancer. Other common forms of skin cancer include basal and squamous cell carcinoma.
The good news? It’s all about taking preventative measures. There’s a lot you can do to protect your skin from the sun:
- Give yourself a window of time for your favorite outdoor activities. Before 10 AM and after 4 PM, the sun’s rays are much less intense and less able to damage your skin.
- Listen to Mom—use your sunscreen. Even if it’s cloudy, apply a SPF of 30 or higher every two hours, especially if you swim or sweat. And believe it or not, sun can bounce off water, sand, and snow. Your sunscreen should also contain zinc or titanium dioxide to give you broad spectrum protection.
- Avoid indoor tanning—that includes booths, beds, and sunlamps. Despite any myths, it’s not a “safer” option.
- If you’re spending a day outside, wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing that covers your skin.
- Consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat to further protect your face, ears, and neck.
- Don’t forget your lips and eyes, too. Wear a protective lip balm of at least SPF 15, and wear sunglasses with added UV protection.
- Remember, many over-the-counter and prescription medications can also increase your skin’s sensitivity in the sun. Read the labels carefully and listen to your body—apply sunscreen as needed.
Test your knowledge. How much do you know about the sun? Take this quiz.
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