Summer is here, which means families will spend more time outdoors. During these months, the sun's rays tend to be extremely strong, making proper sun protection essential. Exposure to the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays increases the risk of skin cancer, which can be dangerous and even deadly. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 86 percent of melanomas are attributed to UV radiation exposure.
"Since skin cancer is highly preventable, embracing sun protection this summer and year-round is crucial," said Perry Robins, M.D., president of The Skin Cancer Foundation.
The Skin Cancer Foundation offers the following tips to help families practice a sun-safe summer:
At the Beach
•Use a broad spectrum sunscreen daily. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
•Cover up with clothing. Look for high-UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) swim shirts or rash guards, and choose bathing suits that cover more skin, like one-piece suits and long trunks. Out of the water, loose-fitting tunics and sarongs are good options.
•Take extra precautions. Water reflects up to 80 percent of the sun's rays, and sand, about 15 percent, adding to one's overall exposure. Reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating, cover up with clothing, and bring a beach umbrella for kids to play under. The most effective beach umbrellas provide a minimum UPF of 30.
•Talk to teens about tanning. Teenagers may be tempted to "lay out" or visit tanning salons. But there is no such thing as a safe tan, because tanning itself is caused by DNA damage to the skin. Remind teens that tanning increases skin cancer risk, including melanoma. In fact, people who first use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent. In addition, tanning leads to premature skin aging, including wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots.
At Summer Camp
•Remind kids to seek the shade. Tell kids to play in shaded areas in order to limit UV exposure. Check with counselors to see if there are adequate places for campers to seek shade during outdoor activities taking place between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when UV rays are most intense.
•Dress kids in sun-protective clothing. For optimal protection from the sun, send kids to camp in long-sleeve shirts and pants. Look for tightly woven or knit, dark- or bright-colored fabrics, which offer the best protection. Don't forget wide-brimmed hats and wraparound, UV-blocking sunglasses.
•Practice sunscreen application beforehand. Teach children to apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons, or about the size of a golf ball), of sunscreen to all exposed areas, 30 minutes before outdoor activities. Remind them to cover easily missed areas, such as the back of ears and neck, and the tops of feet and hands. If camp rules allow, ask counselors to help children reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating.
Additional Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
•Avoid sunburn. At any age, a person's risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has ever had five or more sunburns.
•Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreen should be used on babies over the age of 6 months.
•Practice what you preach. Incorporate these tips into your own lifestyle. You'll not only set a good example, but you'll reduce your risk of skin cancer, sun damage and skin aging.