Picnics, swimming and long walks are great activities to enjoy in the summer. However, it is important to protect yourself from the sun’s potentially harmful rays. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and that its deadliest form, melanoma, is on the rise. The following information can help prevent some of the dangers of sun exposure.
Sun Safety Do’s
- Cover up with wide-brimmed hats, shirts and sunglasses.
- Get regular skin checks by your dermatologist or primary care physician.
- Find shade or bring an umbrella or canopy on your adventure.
- Maintain adequate vitamin D levels. Talk to your naturopathic doctor (ND) about supplementation if necessary.
- Wear sunscreen when outdoors.
Sun Safety Don’ts
- Avoid severe sunburns.
- Don’t use tanning beds.
- Don’t rely on just sunscreen to prevent burns. Wear protective clothing too.
- Plan around the sun. Limit exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Choosing A Sunscreen
Choosing a sunscreen can be a difficult task. Is a higher SPF better? Spray or lotion? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a great resource for choosing a sunscreen that is safe for both adults and children. See EWG's 2014 Guide to Safer Sunscreens.
- Choose SPF 30. Higher SPF gives the illusion that you will be better protected, which is not always the case.
- Avoid sprays. Particles in these sprays are not safe to inhale.
- Avoid oxybenzone, which can act like an estrogen, and retinyl palmitate which can spread the growth of some skin cancers.
- Avoid tanning oils.
- See the EWG website for the 2014 guide to pick the best sunscreen for your family (http://www.ewg.org/2014sunscreen/)
Following this simple guide to summer sun safety will help to prevent your risk of developing skin cancer and will make your time in the summer sun more enjoyable. Talk to your naturopathic doctor about any additional skin or summer safety concerns!
— By Emily Lesnak, ND, resident at Bastyr Center for Natural Health.