A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Summer is right around the corner, these tips can help protect your skin from sun damage

By Dr. John D’Orazio
University of Kentucky

As the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, many of us will start spending more time outdoors. Whether you’re planning a beach vacation, gardening, or watching your kids’ baseball games, make sure you take steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from skin cancer.

The three most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

(NKyTribune file)

Basal and squamous cell carcinomas form on the outermost layer of the skin and are caused by long-term or frequent heavy exposure to the sun. Melanomas develop in the melanocytes of the skin – the cells that produce melanin and give your skin its color — and will darken and “tan” with exposure to sun. This type of skin cancer is the deadliest. It can be caused by bad sunburns, and those who regularly use tanning beds are also at greater risk for developing it. In fact, all three skin cancers can be caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds.

The best treatment for skin cancer is prevention, ideally beginning in youth and continuing throughout life. Even one bad sunburn during childhood can cause skin cancer issues years later. Here are some skin protection tips that will allow you to be as safe as possible while enjoying fun outdoor activities:

• Use sunscreen. Always use sunscreen before going out in the sun – make it a part of your daily routine. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 at a minimum. Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours when you’re outside, and apply more frequently if you’re swimming or even just sweating.

• Stay in the shade, if possible. This will help protect you from unnecessary exposure to excessive sunlight. However, be aware that the UV rays of sunlight can reflect off of bright surfaces – like concrete, sand and snow – and cause skin damage if you’re also not wearing sunscreen.

• Wear a hat and UV-protective clothing. Choose a hat that has a wide brim that shades your face, head, ears and neck. Rashguards are a good choice for children and active adults because they shield the skin from ultraviolet radiation.

• Wear sunglasses. Make sure they’re designed to block both UVA and UVB rays.

• Avoid the brightest time of day. Try timing your outdoor activities during off-peak hours if possible. UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Skin cancer can happen to anyone, regardless of skin color. Causes for concern include new spots on your skin, spots that appear different from others, or spots that persist or are changing, itching or bleeding.

If you notice any unusual changes in your skin, make an appointment with a board-certified dermatologist.

Dr. John D’Orazio, M.D., is chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the University of Kentucky Department of Pediatrics.

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One Comment

  1. Marc says:

    The body needs sunlight, and too much protection can be fatal. Here are some points about the vital necessity of sunlight for human health:
    •Influenza diminishes almost to nothing during late spring, summer, and early fall, times of greatest sun exposure and vitamin D production.
    •Seventy-five percent of melanomas occurs on areas of the body seldom or never exposed to sun.
    •Women who sunbathe regularly have half the risk of death during a 20-year period compared to those who stay indoors. A study from Sweden shows that sun avoidance lowers life span as much as smoking.
    •Multiple sclerosis (MS) is highest in areas of little sunlight, and virtually disappears in areas of year-round direct sunlight.
    •A Spanish study shows that women who seek the sun have one-eleventh the hip-fracture risk as sun avoiders.
    •Men who work outdoors have half the risk of melanoma as those who work indoors.
    •Women who avoid the sun have 10-times the risk of breast cancer as those who embrace the sun.
    •Sun exposure decreases heart disease risk.
    •Sun exposure dramatically improves mood.
    •Those persons who spend many hours daily outdoors have only 1/50 the risk of Parkinson’s disease!
    •For each death caused by diseases associated with sun exposure, there are 328 deaths caused by diseases associated with sun deprivation.
    •Sun exposure increases the production of BDNF, essential to nerve function.
    •Sun exposure can produce as much as 20,000 IU of vitamin D in 20 minutes of full-body sun exposure.
    •In the U.S., vitamin D deficiency in children has increased by 83 times during a 14-year period. That is likely due to indoor living and sunscreen use:
    More information: sunlightinstitute.org, and read the book, Embrace the Sun.

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