There is one week left before the first official day of summer, although several people have already taken advantage of the sunny weather. To keep the hours spent outside enjoyable, health experts are urging people to be sun savvy when it comes to taking care of skin.
The American Cancer Society urges people to do four things: slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, slap on sunscreen and put on sunglasses.
Click play below to listen to KMZU’s Elizabeth Orosco speak with Christine Winter, American Cancer Society Communications Director in St. Louis.
Winter said when shopping for sunscreen, there are three main things to look for: a broad spectrum, SPF level, and expiration date.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) suggests finding sunscreen to protect from both Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. The chief cause of reddening and sunburn, UVB rays tend to damage the epidermis, skin’s outer layers, where the most common forms of skin cancer occur. UVA rays are long enough to reach skin’s dermal layer, damaging collagen and elastic tissue. That layer is also where the cells that stimulate skin darkening are found; that’s why UVA rays are considered the dominant tanning rays.
According to skincancer.org, tanned skin reveals DNA damage.
“UV harms the skin cells’ DNA. To preserve the integrity of the genetic code, repair enzymes are activated almost immediately to correct the damage. In cells where extensive or irreparable injury occurs, these cells switch on the pathway for controlled self-destruction (apoptosis). In addition, maintenance of a tan requires ongoing UV exposure, which is associated with continual DNA photodamage. The current thinking is that tanning is a biological signal by the skin that reflects the presence of DNA impairment.”
The American Cancer Society also suggests using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher.
According to sunsense.com, “The SPF of a sunscreen is derived by taking the time it takes you to burn with a sunscreen and dividing it by the time taken for you to burn without a sunscreen. For example if you burn in 300 minutes with a sunscreen and 10 minutes without a sunscreen, this is 300/10 = 30. So the sunscreen will have an SPF of 30.”
Winter adds that it is a common misconception that people with dark skin don’t need sunscreen, or have less of a risk for developing skin cancer than fair-skinned people. She said this is not true.
“Skin is skin,” she said. “If you have skin, you are susceptible to skin cancer.”
Winter says correct hats, glasses and clothing can also aid in protecting yourself from the sun. A normal cotton t-shirt provides and SPF of less than 15.
Wearing clothing that covers all of your skin is suggested if outside, but not swimming. She adds dark colors provide more protection than light colors and dry clothing helps keep skin safe over wet clothing.
If you’re unable to or prefer not to wear long clothing in summer, utilizing sunscreen tips will aid in keeping your skin healthy. Winter says to be generous with sunscreen application, and to always reapply every two hours or if sunscreen has rubbed off.
Use of sunglasses can also help protect your eyes from various eye diseases. Winter says purchase sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. Labels that say “UV absorption up to 400 NM” will provide adequate protection. Sunglasses labeled “cosmetic” only block about 70 percent UV rays.
For more information on sun safety tips, visit the American Cancer Society’s website at cancer.org.