CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – A day in the sun isn’t without consequence. Every tan you get is skin damage. Each burn, an increased risk of cancer.
“The sun produces invisible, ultraviolet rays that increase risk for the development of skin cancer,” explained Dr. Rachel Day, dermatologist at Summit Plastic Surgery & Skin Care Center. “The nonmelanoma skin cancers – basal and squamous cell – which are the most common skin cancers, are the result of cumulative sun damage over your entire lifetime.”
She said people generally understand that a sunburn is bad for them, but don’t always think about how a tan or summer “glow” could have repercussions years later.
“With each suntan or sunburn you get, you are increasing your risk for skin cancer, particularly if you have fair skin, light eyes and blond or red hair; a history of sunburns; or a lot of moles.”
Dr. Day noted skin tans as a defense mechanism to protect from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, which cause cellular damage.
To help protect against those rays, she recommends all people, six months of age and older, take precautions before going outdoors by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
“About 1 oz., or a shot-glass full, is enough to offer sufficient protection and you should make sure your sunscreen has an SPF of at least 30,” she said. “And, don’t forget to protect your lips with a lip balm that contains SPF 30 or higher, too.”
In addition to applying sunscreen before going outside, Dr. Day said people should remember to reapply often – at least every two hours and after they’ve been in the water, toweled off or sweated.
“One application of sunscreen before going outside for an afternoon isn’t enough to keep you protected.”
Dr. Day recommends dressing children in SPF-containing rash guards to aid in protection while outside, too.
“Chasing kids around to constantly reapply sunscreen can be challenging. These are a great safety net when we’re having fun and may forget to reapply as often as we should,” she said.
While it’s important to stay protected while enjoying time outdoors, Dr. Day stressed the need to find a happy medium between summer fun and sun safety.
“I want my patients and their families to be out enjoying the summer and not holed up at home. Just safely.”
There are several other ways to help protect yourself from sun:
- Seek shade, especially during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
- Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face, head, ears and neck
- Wear sunglasses that block as close to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays as possible
For more information on having a healthy summer, visit SummitHealth.org/Wellness.
Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.
As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, urgent care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.