Play it Safe in the Sun

Lexington Herald-LeaderAugust 31, 2011 

With just a few weeks left in the summer, be sure you are still playing it safe in the sun.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. With over 58 thousand people diagnosed in 2007, Kentucky is at the top of this list. There are several things you can do to prevent skin damage from over exposure to the sun and lower your risk of getting skin cancer.


It is important to remember sun damage does not only happen while at the pool or beach. Often, sunburn occurs on cool, windy days when people forget to wear sunscreen. Unprotected skin can be damaged in as little as 15 minutes, so do not wait until you or your child are a little pink to apply sunscreen. It can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effects of sun exposure and by then it is too late, the skin has already been damaged.


Gerald Elliott, MD, Lexington Clinic dermatologist warns, “Just because you’re not getting burned doesn’t mean you are not at risk for developing skin cancer later in life. Any pigment added to your skin from the sun is damaging and should be prevented.”


This is not to say you cannot go outside and enjoy the warm weather. By limiting your direct exposure to sunlight between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., when the suns rays are the most dangerous, you will reduce the amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays your body takes in. When you are going to be out in the sun, there are several precautions you should take to protect your skin.


The most effective way to prevent sun damage is to use sunscreen with at least a SPF 15 and UVA/UVB protection. Apply the sunscreen at least 30 minutes prior to going outdoors. After that, remember to reapply regularly, especially if swimming or sweating, to ensure maximum protection. Remember your head, feet, ears and neck; these are places many people miss when applying sunscreen.


In addition to sunscreen, there are several other items you may wear to protect the most vulnerable areas of your body. Wearing clothing and swimsuits labeled “Sun Protective” will help the covered parts of your body stay safe. Also, adding a broad brimmed hat will prevent the face, scalp, ears and neck from getting sunburned. To protect your eyes from the harmful rays that can lead to cataracts later in life, sunglasses should be worn with UVA/UVB protection.


Even with the best protection, long hours in the sun will expose the body to UV rays. Seek shelter under trees, umbrellas or pop-up tents whenever available. This is especially important with babies under 6-months-old, as they should be kept completely out of direct sunlight. By taking these preventive measures, the chance of developing skin cancer drops dramatically. The summer can be fun if you take a few precautions to protect yourself.


For more information on ways to protect your skin this summer, contact Lexington Clinic Dermatology Department at 859.258.5270 or visit

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