Memorial Day is the kickoff of summer for many of us. That is those of us who reside in the Northern Hemisphere.
And with that comes plenty of opportunities to get out in the sunshine and enjoy more outdoor activities. And while that is so good for our mental health and Vitamin D consumption, it is not so good for our skin.
According to the National Cancer Institute, skin cancer in the US is on the rise, with almost 100,000 cases diagnosed this year. The two most common types are basal cell and squamous cell carcinoma, with a combined 4.3 million getting treated annually for melanoma.
Early signs of melanoma:
Spot that looks like a new mole, freckle, or age spot, but it looks different from the others on your skin
Spot that has a jagged border, more than one color, and is growing
Dome-shaped growth that feels firm and may look like a sore, which may bleed
Dark-brown or black vertical line beneath a fingernail or toenail
Band of darker skin around a fingernail or toenail
Slowly growing patch of thick skin that looks like a scar
Sun damage is caused by ultraviolet (UV) rays and we experience painful sunburn when we have gotten too much. However, even a tan means you are getting sun damage, especially premature skin ageing. I know many of us in my generation used baby oil to tan, went regularly to tanning beds, and generally had an “I’ll think about that later, having too much fun” to come in out of the sun. Am I right?
And yes, even those of us with more melanin (darker skin color) run the risk of cancer and premature skin ageing.
What to do to reduce the risk?
Stay out of the sun during primetime (10am – 2pm) when it is the most intense.
Wear sleeves, long pants, brimmed hats and quality sunglasses (preferably that wrap around the sides of your eyes) when out in the sun for prolonged periods. Did you know that clothing that is designed for skin protection is only regulated by the FDA for medical purposes? You want to look for an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating of 30 and above, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, to protect you from both UVB and UVA rays, with 50+ being excellent blocking coverage.
Did you know looser, darker clothes and tighter weaves are best for blocking the sun’s rays?
Use at least an SPF15 broad-spectrum sunscreen or better and reapply liberally when outside. And especially if you go in the water, you need to put more sunscreen on as it is not waterproof. And make sure you get your feet, top and bottom. I can’t tell you how many times I have forgotten the soles of my feet only to wonder why they were so itchy and hot. Yes, sunburn.
And get your skin checked annually at your dermatologist to have a baseline and note any changes in moles or any new spots on the skin.
Speaking of sunscreens, here is a link to the EWG’s guide to make sure you are choosing a high-quality sunscreen. The EWG is the Environmental Working Group, a site that checks and tests products of all types, to help you make choices that are environmentally safer and advocate for better transparency from manufacturers of products and the food industry for everyone’s overall safety. If you have followed me for any length of time, you know about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen. If you don’t, message me for the free guide to choosing healthier fruits and vegetables, subject line EWG
Stay sun-safe this summer. Happy Memorial Day!