With snow and cold temperatures becoming distant memories, it’s finally time to enjoy the great outdoors. Although nothing beats the feeling of the sun’s warmth after a long New England winter, it’s important to recognize that too much sun exposure can do more harm than good. In fact, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Massachusetts has the 12th highest, age-adjusted skin cancer rate in the country, and that other New England states all rank in the top 25 percent.
The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays play an important role in premature skin aging, eye damage (including cataracts), and skin cancers. They also remind us that these rays penetrate the atmosphere all year long, and can even cause damage on cloudy days and through windows. The best way to protect your skin is relatively simple—be aware of the risks of sun exposure and take a few simple steps to manage those risks.
Here are some recommendations from the Skin Cancer Foundation and the American Academy of Dermatology:
- Stay in the shade while outdoors, especially when the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use clothing to protect your skin, including long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses that have lenses that block UV rays.
- Apply sunscreen to all exposed areas of skin every day. Don’t forget to protect your lips with lip balm. Reapply every two hours.
The type of sunscreen you use is important, too. Because both UVB and UVA rays are harmful, choose a sunscreen that says “broad-spectrum” or “UVA/UVB protection.” Make sure it has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The American Academy of Dermatology actually recommends using products with an SPF of at least 30. Higher SPFs provide more protection. Sunblock—a product that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide—provides additional protection and is recommended for individuals who are particularly sensitive to the sun, are fair skinned, or are at increased risk of developing skin cancer.
During the spring and summer months Village at Proprietors Green supplies ample opportunities for outdoor activities – both on-site and at venues across the South Shore. Our goal is to make certain that residents and their families who participate in beach outings, summer concerts or just an afternoon lunch on the patio have the information necessary to keep their skin well protected.
Skin care specialists advise to be vigilant about unusual-looking moles—those that have an irregular shape, have jagged borders, are different colors, are bigger than a pencil eraser, or begin to grow—and bring them to the attention of your doctor who can identify skin cancer at its earliest stages when it can be treated most effectively. How often to have your primary care doctor or dermatologist conduct skin cancer screening varies from person to person, depending on risk factors such as having a personal or family history of skin cancer. It is always advisable to talk with your internist or primary care physician about having a full body skin screening on a yearly basis by a dermatologist, perhaps scheduling that appointment to coincide with an annual physical check-up.
Talk with your doctor about the best screening schedule for you, and enjoy your time in the sun!