May is Melanoma Awareness Month
Well, it’s that time of year again! The grass is greener, the sky is bluer, the breeze is warmer, and the sun is stronger. However, with a little forethought and preparation you can help yourself and your family stay safe while you enjoy our beautiful Central Oregon outdoors. And remember, the ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer also destroy elastic fibers and collagen in skin, resulting in fine lines and wrinkles, as well as sallow, thin, discolored skin. So even if you don’t feel motivated to practice sun precautions in order to avoid skin cancer, you’ll want to be “sun smart” to keep your skin youthful and healthy. The following tips will help you stay more youthful looking as well as safer from skin cancer.
Seek the Shade – Staying out of the mid-day sun is crucial. Plan outdoor activities for morning and evening, avoiding sun exposure when your shadow is shorter than your body height (about 10 a.m. to about 4 p.m., but this varies with season and latitude).
Slip and Slap – Slip on a long-sleeved shirt and slap on a hat! Protective clothing is second only to outright avoidance of sun exposure. Cool, comfortable, and light-weight clothing is available now in wide selections of colors and styles, and is a great investment in your skin health.
Slop – Slop on sunscreen, every day, summer or winter, rain or shine. Make sure to use a truly effective sunscreen, and the best are “physical” blockers with zinc oxide (micronized) or titanium dioxide. A double application is best—to avoid skipped spots and using too little, resulting in a thin layer, and a lower-than-advertised Sun Protection Factor (SPF). SPF denotes how long you can be exposed to Ultraviolet (UV) rays before burning. SPF 50 provides about 98% protection, and SPF 100 gives about 99%. It is important to know that all UV radiation exposure is cumulative; a minute here and two minutes there will add up over time, causing severe damage over time even with smaller individual exposures.
Please remember, tan skin is damaged skin. The proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and the proof of your sun protection is in the color of your skin. The skin color you were born with is your reference point. Although it is impossible to keep all of your skin as smooth and silky as a baby’s bottom, the less sun damage, the better. If you find you still “get some color” despite your regimen, then you’ll want to optimize your sun protection habits.