How Risky is the Sun Shine?
Kim Weisser is a family practitioner at Brush Family Medicine in Brush, Colo.
Question: Just how risky is the sun shine?
Answer: The public has some general knowledge about skin cancer, but it still has a ways to go
When it comes to preventing and detecting skin cancer, keep the following tips in mind:
- Sunlight can reflect off water, clouds, sand, concrete and snow, and can reach below the water's surface.
- Use sunscreen even on cloudy days-UV light still comes through.
- UV exposure is greater at high altitudes.
- If you have thinning hair, your scalp is more prone to developing skin cancer.
- People with red or blond hair and fair skin that freckles or burns easily are at especially high risk. Having blue eyes also increases your risk.
- Anyone, regardless of skin color, can develop melanoma, particularly on the palms of the hands, soles of the feet, under the nails and inside the mouth.
- Use a lip balm with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or greater.
- Don't forget to protect your ears with sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat. Many fatal nonmelanoma skin cancers begin on the ears.
- Intense sun exposure in childhood increases a person's risk of skin cancer later in life.
- People who smoke are more likely to get nonmelanoma skin cancer than the general population.
- Use about an ounce, or a palmful, of sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or greater, and apply it 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside so that your skin can absorb the protective agents. Reapply at least every two hours.
- The trunk and back are common sites of melanoma in men.
- The lower legs are a common site of melanoma in women. Don't forget to use sunscreen on the backs of your calves.
- Fabric with a tight weave in dark colors provides the best sun protection.
- Sunscreen does not prevent skin cancer; it simply reduces the amount of UV light exposure. Use it to protect you from normal sun exposure, not to stay out in the sun for an excessively long time.