That tan isn't worth permanent skin damage

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comJuly 2, 2014 

  • Words to remember

    Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap

    The American Cancer Society has a pithy slogan that sums up good sun protection.

    ■ Slip on a shirt

    ■ Slop on sunscreen

    ■ Slap on a hat

    ■ Wrap on sunglasses to protect your eyes and sensitive skin around them

Yes, it is summer, and the sun is inviting.

But don't use those reflective shields that look like they are wrapped in aluminum foil when trying to tan. Don't go for that old "dark tanning oil." And don't, for the sake of your skin, slap on the baby oil tinged with iodine.

"There's no good reason," for using those "tan enhancers" said Joanna Brown, a nurse practitioner at the University of Kentucky. People who go to such extreme measures to tan, she said, are actually causing themselves harm.

Those slathery potions don't provide protection against sun-damaging ultraviolet rays which, she said, can actually damage the DNA.

In her job Brown cautions people to be smart when enjoying the outdoors. But she has a personal interest as well.

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with melanoma. Fair skinned and blue-eyed, she grew up on the beach and had a history of skin cancer in her family. She regularly had checks with her dermatologist. Her cancer was caught early and treated, but she hopes other people will pay attention to their own sun exposure.

Here are some of her tips:

■ Use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15.

■ Sunscreens do have a shelf-life, so if you have been nursing the same tube for three years, it's time to invest in something new.

■ Put sunscreen on about 20 minutes before you go out in the sun and before you put on your bathing suit to get full coverage.

■ Don't be stingy. A typical person needs about a shot glass full of sunscreen for good coverage.

■ Reapply after you get out of the water and at least every two hours.

■ Stay out of the sun when the sun is at its peak, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

■ Remember you can get sunburned, even if you feel cool, so wear protection even on cloudy days.

■ If you have a mole or a spot that is changing and asymmetrical consult a physician.

■ When buying products for sun protection look for the Skin Cancer Foundation's Seal of Recommendation. The foundation reviews laboratory tests showing the effectiveness of products before endorsing not only sunscreens, but moisturizers, sun-protective clothing and a host of other products.

Brown said taking simple steps doesn't mean you can't enjoy the sun. She still loves going to the beach, only now she rarely goes without a hat and proper sun protection.

"Sun is going to increase your risk for all kinds of skin cancer," she said, "you can't be too safe."

Mary Meehan: (859) 231-3261. Twitter: @bgmoms. Blog: BluegrassMoms.com.

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