Spring has sprung and summer is coming. Days with 20 hours of sunlight are on their way in Alaska, making it even more important to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Sun protection is key to skin cancer prevention. About 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanomas are linked to UV radiation from the sun.
Sunscreen is safe and can protect your skin against skin cancer and premature aging. However, it is not as effective unless it's applied correctly. Follow these helpful tips when applying sunscreen:
Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher, is water resistant, and provides broad-spectrum coverage from UVA and UVB rays. The higher the SPF, the better.
Apply sunscreen generously 15 minutes before going outdoors.If you wait until you are in the sun to apply sunscreen, your skin is unprotected and can burn.
Use enough -- most adults need at least one ounce of sunscreen, about the amount you can hold in your palm, to fully cover your body. Rub the sunscreen thoroughly into your skin, especially if you are using a spray sunscreen.
Apply sunscreen to all bare skin.Remember your neck, face, ears, tops of your feet, and legs. For hard‐to‐reach areas like your back, ask someone to help you or use a spray sunscreen. If you have thinning hair, either put sunscreen on your scalp or wear a wide‐brimmed hat. Use a balm with an SPF of at least 30 for your lips.
Reapply sunscreen at least every 1.5-2 hours, or immediately after swimming or sweating excessively. People who get sunburned usually didn't use enough sunscreen, didn't reapply it after being in the sun, or used a sunscreen that was expired.
Your skin is exposed to the sun's harmful UV rays every time you go outside, even on cloudy days and in the winter. So whether you are on vacation or taking a brisk fall walk in your neighborhood, remember to use sunscreen.
Remember, the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. The Skin Cancer Foundation also recommends seeking shade and wearing protective clothing such as a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
For more skin cancer prevention tips, see your friendly local board-certified dermatologist, Janine D. Miller, MD.