Memorial and Labor Day weekends tend to act as seasonal bookends, signaling the kick off and end to summertime fun, cookouts and outdoor activities. Spending time outside solo or with loved ones is an excellent way to get active and recharge, but in the excitement of the summer heat, let’s keep the sun and its harmful rays in mind.
According to the CDC, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and its rates are rising. Each year, more than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. — more than the combined number of new breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers. To help keep prevent sunburned skin, blisters and peeling, stick to playing it cool, and follow our tips to safely enjoy all your outdoor activities.
Keep in mind that no one single step will fully protect you and your kids from the sun's UV radiation.
Help prevent sunburn, skin cancer and premature aging
- Wade in the shade. Always seek the shadiest spot, especially when in or near water or sand where the sun's effects are increased by its reflection. If you're worried about vitamin D, you probably shouldn't be. The CDC reports most Americans are getting enough. Depending on your skin color, 5-30 minutes of sun exposure twice weekly will fulfill your RDA. A couple of lunchtime walks each week and you'll be set. And don't forget to drink lots of water to avoid dehydration.
- Embrace fashion and function. If you can't get under cover, covering up from head to toe is the next best way to protect yourself. When possible, wear clothing like long-sleeve shirts, pants and closed-toe shoes. If it’s not practical or far too hot, try out a beach cover-up or large t-shirt. Don a wide-brimmed hat and “100% UV protection” sunglasses, and your skin and eyes will thank you.
- Lather up. The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends that adults apply one ounce of sunscreen — enough to fill a shot glass — to generously cover exposed areas. Use at least SPF 30, and adjust the amount based on body size and amount of clothing you’re wearing. Don’t forget to reapply every two hours!
- Don’t forget about the left. Do you have more freckles or wrinkles on the left side of your face (if you log a lot of driving miles) or on the right side (if you're often a passenger)? Unlike your car's windshield, which blocks about 90% of both UVA and UVB radiation, the side and rear windows don't filter the sun's harmful UVA rays. Studies show frequent drivers are more likely to develop skin cancers on the left side of their faces. In patients with malignant melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer, 74% of tumors were on the left side. So, while it might take a few minutes out of your day, committing to a sunscreen-filled lifestyle will help keep your face looking younger and cancer-free. If you want to go the extra step, can also install UVA-filtering film on your side and rear windows or look for removable widow shades.
If you have any questions about your risk for skin cancer or notice any concerning spots or moles on your skin, it’s best to reach out to a healthcare provider for further evaluation.
If you or a loved one are faced with a skin cancer diagnosis, our family of hospitals provides comprehensive cancer services. We’re a part of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare and have convenient access to cutting-edge therapies for people facing skin cancer in our communities.