Fun in the Sun

Although rain showers have recently gotten the best of us in Rome, sunny days are ahead. Very soon we will breeze through the 70s and 80s to arrive in the 90s by late spring. Around Memorial Day, the pools will open, the schools will release for the summer, and fun in the sun will once again be the prevailing theme.

Before you turn your backyard into a tanning salon and your children run out the door without sunscreen, consider these facts.

According to reports from the Skin Cancer Foundation, each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung, and colon. Additionally, more people have had skin cancer in the last three decades than all other cancers combined. Finally, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their life.

The number-one cause of skin cancer is ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. These rays damage skin cells and are partly responsible for eye problems, wrinkles, skin spots, and cancer. Unfortunately, the American society has an unhealthy fascination with tanning, both from the sun and tanning beds. While a sunburn is an obvious sign of skin damage, tans are also a result of killed or damaged cells.

The three most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Although basal cell carcinoma is rarely fatal, the same cannot be said for melanoma. According to statistics provided by the Skin Cancer Foundation, one person dies of melanoma every 52 minutes. Estimates revealed 76,380 cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed this year, and about 10,103 people are predicted to die from it.

Although 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired by age 18, it is never too late to start practicing safe sun habits. This is especially true for parents who can set a good example for their children. Take a few minutes to see how you can protect your skin.

  1. Limit your exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. This is high time for UV rays. If you are at the beach, try to stay under an umbrella. Schedule yard work, outdoor exercise, and trips to the playground for the morning or late afternoon.

  2. Remember to apply sunscreen (again and again). Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more about 20 minutes before you go into the sun. The SPF on your sunscreen is important as it refers to the amount of time you can be in the sun without protection. This means a sunscreen with SPF 40 allows you to stay in the sun 40 times longer than you could without protection. Reapply every two hours.

  3. Dress smart. Wear sunglasses and clothing with UV protection in addition to sunscreen. Ward against UV rays by wearing lightweight pants and long-sleeve shirts when you are going to be in the sun for a long period of time.

Try to incorporate these three guidelines into your life this spring before the days become extra hot in the summer. Remember to complete a self-check once a month for any abnormal spots. If you have any questions or concerns, do not hesitate to give the office a call.