According to the American Cancer Society, most of the more than 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed yearly in the United States are considered to be sun-related. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, accounts for about 8,110 of the 10,850 deaths due to skin cancer each year. Medical experts believe that too much exposure to the sun in childhood or adolescence is a major cause of skin cancer and premature skin aging later in life.
Marty Visscher, Ph.D., Director, Skin Sciences Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, explains that some people do not understand the dangers of prolonged sun exposure. “During the summer months, it is critical that people use sunscreen and sun-protective clothing to reduce their risk of sun damage,” Dr. Visscher said. She said the best sunscreen protection will have an SPF number of at least 15 or higher and it should be applied liberally to the skin at least once every hour for maximum protection. “People can never be too careful about putting on sunscreen,” said Dr. Visscher. There are many products which higher SPF levels. You will get a little more protection from an SPF 30 than from SPF 15, but not twice the protection.
According to the federal trade commission (FTC), some of the dangerous effects of sun exposure on the skin include sunburn, photosensitive reactions (rashes), and cell and tissue damage. However, Dr. Visscher explains that there are several precautionary methods that people can take to make sure they don’t harm their skin from too much sun exposure.
Dr. Visscher, along with the FTC, advises the following ways for people to protect themselves from the sun:
- Use water-resistant sunscreens that help protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays and that have SPF numbers of at least 15. Dr. Visscher wants people to remember that that sunscreen will wash off in water and it should be reapplied frequently at a minimum of every hour and more often if a person is drying off and removing the sunscreen with the towel. Dr. Visscher also reminds people that the sun exposure is actually higher when they are around water, due to the reflection effects of the water.
- Apply the sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going out into the sun.
- The nose and lips get high exposure and often require use of sun blocks, containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide, so look for these ingredients on the label.
- Parents speak with camp counselors to make sure they apply and reapply their sunscreen on their child (or at least supervise the child when he or she is applying the sunscreen.
- Keep babies younger than six months out of the sun. Sunscreens may irritate baby skin, and an infant’s developing eyes are especially vulnerable to sunlight.
- Wear sun-protective clothing that lists the garment’s Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) (the level of protection the garment provides from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays).
- Parents need to limit their child’s playtime during the hours when the sun is at its strongest peak, which is between 10 am and 3 pm, in the summer months. If a person is outside during these peak hours, he or she needs to remember to take breaks in the shade.
Source: Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, July 7, 2009