Over-exposure to the sun and its UVB rays is harmful to our health, leaving many of us worried about long hours spent in the afternoon sunshine.
Long Island, NY - July 16, 2018 - Long Islanders look forward to summer so they can finally enjoy all the activities our area has to offer. But by now we’ve all heard that over-exposure (and for some of us just a little exposure) to the sun and its UVB rays is harmful to our health, leaving many of us worried about long hours spent in the afternoon sunshine. Instead of taking refuge in our homes, however, there are ways to protect ourselves from the sun’s dangerous effects when we’re outdoors.
Most of us depend on sunscreen for protection, so proper application is essential. Sunscreens are not magic protection from the sun. You need to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go outside, reapply it every two hours, and repeat more often if you are in the water.
Although the SPF numbers the numbers really do mean something - an SPF of 15 blocks 93% of harmful rays, 30 blocks 97%, 50 blocks 99%, and so on – there’s evidence that all-natural sunscreens may not be cutting it. Consumer Reports conducted a survey of over 70 sunscreens this year, and they found the ones containing chemical agents performed better than those with only titanium dioxide. Many of us would rather not apply anything unnatural to our bodies; but it’s important to weigh the consequences in our own unique situations. One other surprising fact about sunscreen is the amount you have to use – experts say half of an eight-ounce tube for every full day in the sun. That’s a lot of sunscreen!
Protective clothing and gear to aid in the blockage of sun are a great way to shield yourself as well. There are beach umbrellas, hats, beach tents and apparel on the market that can act as an extra barrier since they are made out of special sun-protective fabric.
The bottom line is we are all concerned about developing skin cancer due to over-exposure to the sun. As with any cancer, early detection is key. It’s a good idea to check your entire body periodically for the “ugly duckling,” what melanoma experts have dubbed the cancerous moles you should be looking for. This means you should watch out for any mark on your body that looks different from anything else on your skin. Skin cancer professionals have also developed a helpful acronym, ABCDE, to assist in defining a dangerous mole:
A = asymmetry, one side is not symmetrical with the other
B = border, the border of the mole is jagged and uneven
C = color, the mole is more than one hue
D = diameter, the mole is larger than ¼ inch
E = elevated, the mole is raised (or) evolving, the mole’s characteristics keep changing
Although self-examination is a helpful practice, a yearly visit to a dermatologist will insure detection of any suspicious mole.
Lastly, let’s break some myths about skin cancer and sun exposure.
Myth/Fact #1: Many people believe that 80% of a person’s lifetime sun exposure happens by the age of 18. Not the case. Only about 23% of a person’s lifetime sun exposure occurs by the age of 18 (sun exposure has a cumulative effect; the percentage rises with age).
Myth/Fact #2: Although fair-skinned people have an increased risk of skin cancer, people of any skin color, including African-Americans, can fall victim to skin cancer.
Myth/Fact #3: Yes, you can get a sunburn on a cloudy day. Although haze and clouds filter about 80% of the suns rays, that leaves 20% to sift through.
An informative guide to skin cancer prevention and detection is www.skincancer.org. They furnish a lot of details about types of skin cancers, statistics and data, best products for protection, explanations of ingredients in sunscreens and proper usage, and most importantly, signs for early detection.
Enjoy a sun-blocked, UVB-free summer!