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Ten Tips for Preventing Sun Damage and Skin Cancer

Can you guess which of the above identical twins worshiped the sun and which didn’t?

It’s May. The flowers are blooming at the North Carolina Botanical Garden. Locals and tourists alike are flocking to the Raleigh Artsplosure Arts Festival. Everyone is anticipating the pleasures of summer, including those Carolina (or Duke!) blue skies. May is also Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a timely reminder that sun exposure represents the biggest harm you can do to your skin, both in terms of its appearance and, more importantly, your health.

Here are ten common-sense ways to protect you and your family from the damaging rays of the North Carolina sun. We’ve adapted these tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

1)    Seek the shade. Stay out of the sun, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is strongest. You can also use the “shadow rule.” If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation is strong. On the other hand, if your shadow is longer that you are, UV radiation will be less intense.

2)    Don’t get burned. Getting five or more sunburns at any point in your life dramatically increases your risk of getting melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Don’t let it happen to you.

3)    Cover up, Wear a hat with a wide, broad brim and use UV-blocking sunglasses (think Jackie O!). Fabrics that are densely woven and that come in bright- or dark-colors offer the best sun defense. Remember: The more skin you cover, the better your protection. Choose long sleeves and long pants whenever possible.

4)    Use sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) lotion with an SPF of 15 or higher EVERY DAY. Be especially vigilant in environments where you will be more exposed than usual (like the beach or golf course). When you anticipate swimming or sweating in the sun, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Physical barrier sunscreens that have micronized titanium dioxide are preferable to chemical sunscreens.  Remember the SPF rating relates only to UVB protection.  UVA rays can be equally damaging to the skin!  Physical sunscreens block more of both UVA and UVB radiation.

5)    Use enough sunscreen, all over and prior to sun exposure.  Apply one ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body.  Do so 30 minutes before going outside. If you wait until you get in the sun, you are allowing your skin to get sun damaged.

6)    Reapply sunscreen frequently. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. For prolonged outdoor activity, you should be using up one six-ounce bottle of sunscreen every two days. If you’re not using that amount, you’re not protecting yourself adequately.

7)    Protect your children from the sun. Newbornskin is extremely vulnerable. Use a shade tent if you must take them to the beach or pool. Sunscreen should be used on babies over the age of six months. Remember: Children are very sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, just one severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chances of developing melanoma later in life.

8)    Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. Monthly self-exams don’t replace an annual skin exam (see below). Nonetheless, they do offer the best chance of detecting the early warning signs of skin cancer. If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see a physician immediately. To find out more about how to perform self-examination, visit this link.

9)    See your dermatologist every year for a professional skin exam.  Thirty minutes of your time can literally save your life.

10) Remember: There’s no such thing as a safe tan. Stay away from tanning beds and indoor tanning salons. Indoor tanning greatly increases the risk of skin cancer


*For the Month of May, we will be offering 25% off all sun protective items – including sunscreen, clothing (hats/shirts) and Heliocare so come on by and stock up on all your sun protection needs.


More on this issue next week.