Most of us in the United States had wonderful weather this past Memorial Day weekend -- three days of sunny skies and very warm temperatures. My family and I were lying by swimming pools all weekend, enjoying the heat that was much needed, having come out of the worst winter in our state’s history.
But as much as we love the heat and sun, staying protected is a must. Otherwise we run the very real risk of getting skin cancer -- something that tens of thousands of us are diagnosed with every year. And according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
Sunscreen all over is needed. I personally know several people who have had skin cancer of the face and it’s a place we often forget, especially on the nose and forehead.
To avoid skin cancer that is caused by sun exposure, a broad-spectrum sunscreen is needed, that protects against both UVA rays (the kind that cause cancer and early aging) and UVB rays that cause the skin to burn. The form of skin cancer called melanoma can be deadly if not found early.
A double layer is a good idea. We make our kids wait until it has soaked in before we let them jump in the water. And we need to pay special attention to other commonly missed spots -- ears, eyelids, noses and soles of the feet.
The back of the neck also needs attention. For the follicly challenged, making sure bald spots are covered will prevent painful burns on the scalp.
Lip balm with a sunscreen is also good for delicate lips.
Factor 15 or 30 should be the minimum amount of protection. In climates like Australia's where there is a distinct hole in the ozone layer, a very strong sunblock is a good idea.
Using factor 50 will do harm and offers only slightly better protection than Factors 15/30.
Remember that waterproof sunscreens still need to be reapplied at least every two hours.
The CDC reports that those more susceptible to skin cancer have:
- Lighter natural skin color
- Family history of skin cancer
- A personal history of skin cancer
- Exposure to the sun through work and play
- A history of sunburns, especially early in life