Showing skin: 7 ways to reduce risk of sun damage

  • Published
  • By Capt. Shamana Stevens
  • 86th Medical Group
Summertime is here! We will soon enjoy time at the beach, swimming pools, bike rides and more time doing outdoor activities all because of precious sunlight. The sun provides us with the benefits of Vitamin D production, warmth and a good mood. While we enjoy the wonderful solar benefits, it is important to use proven methods to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer among Americans. More than two million people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year, which exceeds the combined amount of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer. One-in-five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

Things you can do to prevent skin cancer:

Find the shade -- Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the ultraviolet rays of the sun are strongest, which means more damage to your skin can occur in a short amount of time. This leads to premature aging and wrinkling of the skin. Water, sand and even snow reflect up to 30 percent of ultraviolet rays, further increasing chance of sunburn.

Learn not to burn! -- "I burn first, and then I am able to tan." Repeated sunbathing escalates damage to your skin. Just one isolated sunburn significantly increases one's risk of developing skin cancer, especially in children. Keep newborns out of the sun!

Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds -- Ultraviolet light from tanning beds and the sun causes cancer and wrinkles the skin. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that people who engage in indoor tanning are 74 percent more likely to get melanoma, a potentially fatal form of skin cancer.

Generously apply sunscreen -- Generously apply a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) product with an SPF of 15 or higher. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher; reapply every two hours, and after swimming or sweating. Be sure to use one ounce to cover every bit exposed skin 20 minutes before going outside. This allows the sunscreen time to bind to the proteins of your skin, and give it the best possible defense.

Wear Protective Clothing -- In the summer sun, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses should be considered must-haves. The hat casts a shadow over the face and neck -- the most vulnerable areas to sun exposure. The sunglasses prevent damage to the eyes. Lack of sun protection is associated with increased incidence of cataracts. Wear long pants and long sleeves when possible. In today's market there is a wide variety of clothing options touting sun-blocking effects. Interesting fact: We've been taught to wear white and light colors for protection in the sun, but bleached fabrics offer the lowest level of protection because they lack UV absorbing pigment. Go for color!

Check the UV Index -- The UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure. Fact -- On June 12, 2012 at 2 p.m., the UV rating in Kaiserslautern was six, a moderate level despite a 74 percent cloud cover.

Examine your skin -- Do a head to toe visual exam every month and see your physician for a yearly professional exam if you have ever been diagnosed with skin cancer, or identified as someone who is at high risk for skin cancer.

For more information about sun safety and skin cancer prevention visit Take the time to educate yourself and enjoy the summer.