Choose You Blog

Happy July 4th! Stay Safe in the Sun!

July 4th, 2011 by - no comments

Have you ever read Dr. Len’s blog?

Dr. Len is actually J. Leonard Lichtenfeld, MD, MACP – Dr. Lichtenfeld is Deputy Chief Medical Officer for the national office of the American Cancer Society. And I really like his blog. He shares really good insights and thoughts from an expert perspective about cancer, cancer treatment, cancer causes, and cancer prevention.

Back in May he posted some really good guidelines for Don’t Fry Day. We usually put a lot of emphasis on sunscreen (make sure to read the new sunscreen guidelines and understand the new labels), but Dr. Len reminded us that sunscreen isn’t really sunblock and it isn’t failsafe:

Sunscreen is definitely an important part of sun-safe behavior.  But you may note that I have left it to last on this list.  Why?  Because too many people have too much faith in sunscreen.  Yes, it can prevent sunburns when used properly.  But it is the “used properly” part that has many of us concerned.  ”Used properly” means an SPF of at least 15 (some experts recommend an SPF of 30 or higher).  ”Used properly” also means putting on lots and lots and lots of the goopy stuff–all over your body.  ”Used properly” means putting it on every 2 hours–come sun or clouds.  ”Used properly” means putting it on frequently if you go swimming or become sweaty after playing beach volleyball or another sport.

Sunscreen doesn’t last forever, yet some people believe it does. And high SPFs really don’t make you immune from the sun’s rays for a longer time, nor do they add as much protection as some people think they do.

Survey after survey shows that people who rely solely on sunscreen to protect them from the damaging effects of the sun apply too little, and believe that high SPFs mean they can stay in the sun for much longer periods of time..

You might want to say, “Say it isn’t so…”, but sunscreen although safe and effective when used as directed more often than not is not used as directed.

The sad result is that some research shows that people who rely on sunscreen may in fact have higher rates of skin cancer, in part due to the fact that they probably didn’t follow the sunscreen rules outlined above about how to use sunscreen properly

Another sunscreen tip: use a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) to prevent damage from both kinds of harmful rays of the sun.

And yes, although there is chatter about possible problems with some of the chemicals in sunscreen, most agree that based on currently available scientific evidence the benefits of sunscreen outweigh the risks. Research continues to answer concerns regarding sunscreen formulas, but for now they are a much better bet than taking the risk of getting burned in the sun.

Getting a burn is a bad thing folks. So is a tan. Everyone knows that sunburn is bad, and a sign of toxic effects of the sun on the skin. But tanning is also a sign of sun damage.  Forget the thought that a healthy tan is a sign of good health. It isn’t. And there is no such thing as a healthy tan. It isn’t healthy. Period.

Dr. Len says he isn’t a spoilsport and neither am I, so here are a few hints for how to stay safe but have fun in the sun:

  • Watch this video: Sun Safety
  • Learn about the UV index. Between 10 am and 4 pm the sun’s rays are the strongest (read: most dangerous) so try to get some shade and remember to re-apply the sunscreen. Check that UV index like you check the weather report. You can find out how strong the sun’s rays really are that day.
  • Use rashguards and hats and lots of sunscreen on kids. Their skin is very sensitive, and if you protect them, you really lessen their chances of skin cancer or melanoma. You can also use those lightweight beach and pool coverups. There are some light, loose linen and t-shirt styles for both men and women that are comfortable even in the coastal Texas heat (and trust me — it doesn’t get hotter than that). Sun hats are cool. No, really, they are. Check out this hat — how cool are you in an Uncle Sam hat that also protects your head? (You might bring a bandana too, to protect your neck and ears.)
  • Speaking of protecting heads…don’t forget sunscreen for your scalp!
  • Wear shades. Yep, sunglasses. They are a fashion statement and also protect your eyes. Did you know that exposure of the eyes to the sun causes premature aging of the cornea, just like it causes premature aging of the skin?

All this? I learned from Dr. Len!

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