Here Comes the Sun

By Amber McCracken, GHI Blog Contributor

iStock.com/Filipovic018

Protect Yourself & Stay Sun Safe

It’s summertime! Outdoor festivals, beach days, sightseeing and tons of outdoor activities await. As you pack your bag for a daytime adventure, be sure to include a long sleeve shirt, hat and sunscreen.

July is UV Safety Month. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. And it looks like the sun is the major culprit, causing 90% of all non-melanoma skin cancers.

Protecting oneself from the sun’s harmful rays is especially important as we age. A 2009 study showed that older skin is less able to protect itself, and in adults over the age of 70, the skin had a diminished ability to attract T cells to damaged areas. T cells are immune cells that heal skin, but only when attracted to areas that need repair. This means that as we age, our skin does not heal as well, leaving us more vulnerable to infections and also skin cancer.

Sunscreens

The good news is there are several ways to protect your skin. The first is sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends wearing sunscreen every day if you will be outside, because the sun emits harmful UV rays year-round. In fact, the World Health Organization’s Global Solar UV Index report says that even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin. The report also warns that snow, sand and water increase the need for sunscreen because they reflect the sun’s rays.

Dr. Elizabeth Buzney, outpatient clinical director of the Department of Dermatology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor of dermatology at Harvard Medical School, echoed the importance of sunscreen in lowering your risk for skin cancer in an interview with The Skin Cancer Foundation.

“We have also proven that sunscreen helps prevent skin cancer,” stated Dr. Buzney. “Two important Australian studies showed that melanoma was reduced by 50 percent and squamous cell carcinoma by 40 percent in those who used sunscreen daily. That’s huge. So keep slathering on the sunscreen!”

However, not all sunscreens are created equal. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends brands that have broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays), has an SPF of 30 or higher and is water resistant.

Additional Protection

Beyond sunscreen, there are others ways to keep your skin healthy. As skin ages, it becomes more prone to dryness, which can be made worse by sun damage. Keep skin moist with a lotion or cream to help protect it, and ensure your daily lotions have SPF protection.

Keeping in mind that the sun’s rays are strongest in North American between the hours of 10AM and 4PM, the simplest ways to protect your skin is to say indoors during these peak hours or seek shade.

For those that don’t want to deal with the inconvenience of reapplying sunscreen, protective clothing can do the trick. Loose, lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts are ideal sun protection garb. Add a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses, and your safety look is complete!

“I want to stress that when you think about sun protection, sunscreen is important, but you should also think beyond sunscreen,” stated Dr. Buzney. “The safest and most effective method, used throughout history, is to minimize your exposure to the sun and wear clothing and hats. Any discussion of sun protection has to start with those.”

And so as you set out the rest of this summer with an eye toward outdoor adventure and fun, but sure to ensure your best life and take steps to stay sun safe!

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Amber McCracken is the executive director of Current Communications, a boutique consultancy that helps organizations with their marketing and public relations activities. Amber has worked with GHI since 2014, providing her expert advice to support Goodwin House at Home. She contributes regularly to The Good Life, both as a writer and editor. Amber lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children. She also serves as the caregiver to both of her parents.