In the summertime, most of us relish the time we spend outdoors in the beautiful weather. Enjoying sun-filled summer days provides you with vitamin D, a key contributor to your mental healths well being, but if you aren’t careful, it also increases your chances of developing skin cancer.
By taking sensible precautions, you can have fun outdoors this summer while minimizing your risk of sun exposure. Follow these tips from board-certified dermatologists Michael Del Torto, MD, Donald R. Stranahan, Jr., MD, and the rest of our skilled dermatology team at Easton Dermatology Associates to keep skin healthy this summer.
Summertime increases your skin cancer risk
Most skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, are caused by repeated exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays the sun emits. It’s important to protect your skin from the sun all year, but your risk of skin cancer exposure goes up significantly during the summer months.
This is because the sun’s UV rays are stronger during the summertime than the rest of the year. With longer days and nicer weather, we also tend to spend more time outdoors.
Summertime guidelines to keep your skin healthy:
Wear sunscreen every time you leave the house, and reapply it regularly.
Maximize your skin cancer protection by wearing sunscreen every time you venture outdoors or expose your skin to sunlight. This means you should wear sunscreen even on a cloudy day, or if you’re going for a drive or sitting by a window.
Sunscreen forms a protective barrier against the sun’s UV rays, preventing your skin from absorbing them. For the most effective protection, apply a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen to any sun-exposed areas on your body. Keep in mind that it takes 15 minutes for sunscreen to absorb into your skin.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends SPF 30 broad-spectrum sunscreen with water resistance. Make sure your product isn’t past its expiration date. Sunscreen doesn’t last all day, so you’ll need to reapply it every two hours. If swimming, water-resistant sunscreen stays effective for 40 minutes, while very resistant sunscreen stays effective for 80 minutes.
Avoid trying to get a tan.
Many of us hope to get a tan during the summer months, but tanning outdoors or in a tanning booth is a dangerous practice. A tan indicates your skin has been exposed to UV light and increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
Instead, embrace tanning products, such as self-tanning lotion, to achieve the tan you desire. Tanning creams and sprays are a safe way to get a tan without the risk of sun exposure and without the premature signs of aging and loss of hydration that occurs to your skin from UV exposure.
Stay indoors, or seek shade in the middle of the day.
The sun is at its brightest and most dangerous between 10am and 2pm. Try to avoid going outside during these hours, or if it’s unavoidable, seek shade outdoors using a tree, umbrella, covered pavilion or an easy to use pop up sunshade tent. Plan in advance how best to protect yourself so you aren’t tempted to risk the UV exposure. Getting only two sunburns a year, triples your chances of developing the most dangerous form of skin cancer; melanoma.
Wear sunglasses, a hat, and protective clothing outdoors.
Protective clothing and accessories help you protect your skin, your eyes and the top of your head which can’t be protected by sunscreen. When choosing sunglasses, pick a wraparound pair that fully covers the eye area and offers UVA and UVB protection.
Invest in a tightly woven hat with a wide brim that keeps your ears, neck, and face shaded. When you can, cover your arms and legs in the sun with long shirts and pants. Try to choose darker clothing made with tightly woven fabric for more protection. Be sure to include protection of your feet, covering them completely.
Check your skin frequently for skin cancer.
It’s important to regularly check your skin from head to toe for any signs of skin cancer. Look for atypical or new moles using the ABCDE checklist: Note any moles that appear asymmetrical, have an atypical border, are unusually colored, have a diameter greater than a pencil eraser, or are evolving by changing color, size, shape, or become itchy, irritated or begin bleeding.
Our team at Eastern Dermatology Associates performs skin cancer screenings at our office on a daily basis. Our practitioners check your skin thoroughly to see if you have any signs of skin cancer, precancerous lesions, or suspicious areas that need to be monitored. We recommend scheduling a skin cancer screening annually or immediately if you notice a spot of concern during your own skin check.
By practicing sun safety in the summer, you can stop skin cancer in its tracks and minimize solar damage to your skin. To make an appointment to be seen in our Easton or Salisbury, Maryland locations, call us today.