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With the arrival of spring, you might be anxious to head outside. But as the weather warms up, don’t neglect to protect your skin against its greatest danger from the sun: skin cancer. Rebecca Tuttle, MD, surgical oncologist with Kettering Health Cancer Care, warns against braving the sun without proper skin protection.
“Sun exposure is definitively linked to the development of skin cancer,” says Dr. Tuttle. “You need to protect yourself when you’re out in the sun.”
Developing skin cancer—such as melanoma—is associated with lifelong sun exposure. Sunburns (particularly severe burns when you’re young) increase your risk, as do your family history and complexion. Those with fair skin, light hair, and light eyes are especially at risk for skin cancer.
Dr. Tuttle recommends practicing sun safety by
- Wearing sunscreen
- Choosing protective clothing
- Staying in the shade while outside
The power of sunscreen
Sunscreen is easily the most popular form of sun protection. But with so many options, it’s difficult to know which is best.
Dr. Tuttle says the key is not the SPF (sun protection factor) number but rather applying sunscreen generously and often. Wear sunscreen whenever you’re out in the sun, no matter the activity. Stick to SPF 30 since it provides 97% protection from the sun’s rays. And use an ounce of sunscreen—roughly the same amount as a travel-sized hand sanitizer bottle. Reapply every one to two hours and whenever you sweat or swim.
Dr. Tuttle adds that for full protection, sunscreen needs to be applied 15 to 20 minutes before sun exposure. So apply sunscreen before leaving the house, not when you arrive at the park or beach.
Many sunscreen options are available, so try different types to find what you need, such as formulas that leave no residue or are free of chemicals your body might react to. Sunscreens are also available specifically for children, who are at high risk for sunburns that could increase their skin-cancer risk later in life.
Finally, make sure everyone in your group is wearing sunscreen, regardless of skin tone. Despite popular misconceptions, people of color are still susceptible to sunburn and are at higher risk for different types of melanoma.