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Five tips to protect yourself from the summer sun

July 15, 2012
By Kevin Ronneberg, M.D.

  • Para protejer su piel, use un bloqueador solar de amplio espectro (UVA/UVB) con un factor de protección de 15 (SPF 15) o más.
    Use a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB) with a protection factor of 15 (SPF 15) or higher to protect your skin.

As temperatures rise, it is imperative that those who love going to the beach or playing outdoors are protected from the sun.

To start, we must choose the appropriate sunscreen to protect from damaging UV rays. The following five tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation can help mitigate the damaging effects of the sun and reduce the risk of developing skin cancer.

Ÿ Minimize exposure to UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays. Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m because during those hours its rays are more powerful. Remember that clouds to not block UV rays.

Babies under 6 months of age should avoid direct sunlight at all times; they should be protected with clothes, an umbrella or a stroller canopy. Both children and adults should wear protective clothes, including wide-brimmed hats and UV-blocking sun glasses.

Ÿ Use a broad spectrum sunscreen (UVA/UVB) with a protection factor of 15 (SPF 15) or higher. This type of solar protection should be applied every day. Temperatures might lower at the end of summer, but UV rays remain powerful year-round.

Next year, new rules from the Federal Drug Administration will help consumers determine if they have the right protection, because they will prohibit manufacturers from labeling their sunscreens as “broad spectrum” or to claim they protect against skin cancer unless they have a protection factor of SPF 15 or higher.

Ÿ Apply one ounce of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outdoors. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, for a full protection it is necessary to apply sunscreen half an hour before sun exposure. Studies indicate that most people apply a smaller amount of sunscreen and therefore don’t get the full benefit of SPF protection.

Reapplying sunscreen is as important as applying it initially, because sunscreens tend to disintegrate or disappear with water and sweat. Therefore, it is necessary to apply sunscreen every two hours and immediately after swimming or playing tennis. Spending the entire day at the beach, you should use at least a quarter of an 8 ounce bottle of sunscreen.

Ÿ Do not get burned by the sun. Sun burns are the most immediate and obvious sings of damage from UV rays. When immune system cells rush to the burn sight to begin repairing, they produce redness and swelling.

Tanning is the skin’s response to this damage, and it can affect the skin’s cells permanently. Even though many believe that a “basic tan” prevents damaging burns, it is not true. There is no such thing as a healthy or basic tan.

Ÿ Check your skin regularly and ask your doctor for a skin cancer test once a year. One in five Americans have skin cancer. Tanning and burns can be the first step. Intermittent but intense exposure to UV rays is more closely associated than chronic sun exposure with melanoma, the most deadly variety of skin cancers. A sun burn with blisters during childhood or five burns during your lifetime doubles the risk of developing melanoma.

To self-detect signs of damage in your skin, inspect it from head to toes, looking for spots or sores that are slow to heal, and moles (warts) that change color, texture or size.

Sunscreens are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle. They maintain a youthful skin and reduce the risk of many skin cancers, but they should be used properly.

Dr. Kevin Ronneberg is the associate medical director at Target.

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