Sun Safety 101

Summer is officially in full swing! Everyone is outside for pool and beach days, camping, cookouts, festivals, and working in the yard! It is definitely one of my favorite times of year. I love to get outside and enjoy the sunshine. 4th of July is this weekend, and I am sure a lot of people have some fun outdoor plans! With holidays and summer here, I wanted to take a few minutes to discuss sun safety. No matter the color of your skin, hair, eyes, or how invisible to the sun you believe you are, everyone can burn and have negative effects from the sun. As a nurse and a daughter of a skin cancer survivor, sun safety and educating others is very important to me!

Skin Cancer

In 2008, my dad was diagnosed with Stage III Melanoma. It was a scary time in my family’s life, but I am so blessed to say that he is okay! In fact, better than okay, 8 years later he is still cancer free! He had to undergo two different surgeries, plus a year of Interferon treatments. He was one of his oncologist first patient’s to be able to tolerate the whole year of treatment including 5 weeks of infusions which is amazing! He kicked cancer’s ass (excuse my language) and I am so proud to have him as my dad! He made me realize how important sun safety is and his cancer battle was one of the reasons I became a nurse! But that’s a story for another day.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website, each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon. Yes, many of these are easily treatable and have very low death rates. However, they can be deadly, and should be taken seriously. Everyone needs to take steps to protect themselves.

Sun Protection

I am in no way saying you should hide from the sun, but you should takes steps to help protect yourself from it! Some things you can do include:

  • Sunscreen!! On days you will be hanging out in the sun, apply 30 ml (approximately the size of a shot glass or med cup) of SPF 30 of higher with UVA/UVB protection sunscreen to your skin 30 minutes before stepping outside. Reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or heavy sweating.
  • For everyday use, use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. There are lotions and facial moisturizers that include SPF protection, making it easy to get your sun protection in!
  • Seek shade when possible, especially between the hours of 10a-4p when the sun is most intense. Bring an umbrella to the beach or have your picnic in the shade!
  • Cover up! Invest in a cute hat or sundress with sleeves. You can even buy clothes with SPF protection now, my dad owns a few shirts for his sun days!
  • Do not use tanning beds! Seriously, just don’t do it! If you want a “safe” tan, try a spray tan or tanning lotion. I sometimes use Jergens Natural Glow tanning lotion. It gives you gradual color so you don’t get streaks, it moisturizes really well, it smells good, and it does not make you orange! Note: I realize UV therapy is used for some disorders such as eczema, I understand when the risks and benefits are weighed with your PCP and their is a health benefit.
  • Avoid burns! Sun burns increase your chance of developing skin cancer.

Skin Checks

Just like every month everyone (yes, even men!) should be doing self breast exams, you also should be doing monthly skin self exams !  Pick a day of the month, mark your calendar/set a reminder in your phone, and do them! Knowing your own body is the best way to early detection. Early detection leads to quicker treatment and better outcomes! Everyone should also have a yearly skin exam by a dermatologist. I have had multiple moles removed and biopsied, some have had precancerous cells. Finding them early can keep them from turning into cancer!

Everyone, no matter their history or risk factors, should be following these simple steps to have healthier skin and help prevent skin cancer. On a side note, remember to stay hydrated while you are in the hot summer sun! Drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration and electrolyte imbalance.

Have a safe and fun Fourth of July weekend! For more information on skin cancer and sun protection, visit The Skin Cancer Foundation .



Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month