Sunshine And Skin: Playing It Safe This Summer

By Jessica Poole, Certified Athletic Trainer

Ahhh, summertime! With longer days and warmer weather we are able to head to the great outdoors and stay active. For most of us, the warmer weather and sunshine brighten our days and moods. Outdoor activities from exercise to vacation events, to family reunions draw us out of our homes. Alls good when summer rolls around, but we do need to remember one important thing about sweet summertime.

Sun damage.

Now, let me say this before I begin my reminders. I love summer. I love the sun and I love a great tan. I look healthier, I feel healthier, my white shorts and jeans and tank tops look much better when I have a tan. I love me some Vitamin D and nothing makes me happier than soaking up some sun with my babies. I believe in being outdoors and having my kids outdoors all day long. It’s instant exercise and we clear our minds, souls and lungs. I’m also an athletic trainer, so my days are spent outdoors covering sports -- lacrosse, baseball, football, all played outdoors.   

HOWEVER…. The sun can damage our skin and lead to life-long issues if we absorb too much. One sunburn on myself or my kids feels like a lifetime when we have to deal with it, and may lead to basal cell carcinomas later in life. Even one sunburn is dangerous.

So, I believe strongly in moderation, and practice such in all areas of my life.  So, while very limited sun exposure is best and safest, it’s not always my reality or the reality of some of our readers. With moderation and limitations in mind, I want to use today to discuss some sun safety and skin cancer prevention

Screen Out the Sun

Use sunscreen daily and reapply frequently. While my family loves the outdoors and the sun and good tans, we all use sunscreen. The older I become and now with children, this is a discipline I have adopted strongly. Each outing comes with a good lathering of sunscreen. Sunscreen should also be reapplied frequently. 

Most sunscreens should be reapplied every 80 minutes or after water exposure or toweling. Sunscreens have UVA and UVB protection in various levels. The level means you can be exposed to UV rays longer before burning. So a SPF of 30 means you can be in the sun 30 times longer (than if you weren’t wearing any sunscreen) before you burn. You must re-apply. 

Be sure to buy a product that protects against UVA AND UVB rays at the level of protection that is necessary for your lifestyle. There are many on the market and you can also find great sunscreens that are paraben-free or mineral-based, if you’re wary of chemicals found in beauty products.

Also, with a little Internet research you can find clothing with an SPF factor to further prevent prolonged exposure.

Finally, limit your sun exposure.

Tan Safely, if You Must

I love a good tan. However, a tan can be damaging. So be smart. Wear sunscreen and reapply. Moisturize afterwards.

A better idea? Use self-tanning products to have the same results without the sun.
Never, ever, ever use a tanning bed.

Check Yourself

Perform frequent skin checks, regardless of your sun exposure. We all should be good stewards of our health and self-evaluate periodically. The  American Academy of Dermatology suggests checking for ABCDE. This acronym simply explains the characteristics of cancerous moles.

A: Asymmetry: One side of the mole is not like the other
B: Borders are not the same in color or in shape or are changing
C: Color changes occur within the same mole
D: Diameter greater than 6mm (a pencil eraser)
E: Evolving moles are moles that change shape or elevation (height)

If you notice any of these changes or characteristics in your moles, seek a dermatology evaluation with a physician.

So there are my thoughts on sun safety. Hope you have a wonderful June and as always, stay healthy my friends.

The Coffee Connection

For more information regarding skin evaluations, skin cancer and prevention visit GMC’s Health (e) Library. Among the articles is a recent one highlighting promising results of a study evaluating whether coffee drinkers have less risk of melanoma.

To find a physician near you, visit gwinnettmedicalcenter.org/physician.


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