• Protecting Your Skin during the Summer

    Cincinnati Children’s doctor gives tips on how to prevent sunburn and skin cancer

    According to the American Cancer Society, most of the more than 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed yearly in the United States are considered to be sun-related. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, accounts for about 8,110 of the 10,850 deaths due to skin cancer each year. Medical experts believe that too much exposure to the sun in childhood or adolescence is a major cause of skin cancer and premature skin aging later in life.

    Marty Visscher, PhD, director, Skin Sciences Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, explains that some people do not understand the dangers of prolonged sun exposure. “During the summer months, it is critical that people use sunscreen and sun-protective clothing to reduce their risk of sun damage,” Visscher said. She said the best sunscreen protection will have an SPF number of at least 15 and it should be applied liberally to the skin at least once every hour for maximum protection. “People can never be too careful about putting on sunscreen,” said Visscher. There are many products with higher SPF levels. You will get a little more protection from an SPF 30 than from SPF 15, but not twice the protection.

    According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), some of the dangerous effects of sun exposure include sunburn, photosensitive reactions (rashes), and cell and tissue damage. However, Visscher explains that there are several precautionary methods that people can take to make sure they don’t harm their skin from too much sun exposure.

    Visscher, along with the FTC, advises the following ways for people to protect themselves from the sun:

    • Use water-resistant sunscreens that help protect skin from both UVA and UVB rays and that have SPF numbers of at least 15. Remember that sunscreen will wash off in water and it should be reapplied frequently, at a minimum of every hour and more often if you are drying off and removing the sunscreen with the towel. Remember, too, that the sun exposure is actually higher when you are around water, due to the “reflection” of the water.
    • Apply the sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going out into the sun.
    • The nose and lips get high exposure and often require use of sun blocks, containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide, so look for these ingredients on the label.
    • Parents should speak with camp counselors to make sure they apply and reapply sunscreen on their child (or at least supervise the child when she is applying the sunscreen).
    • Keep babies younger than 6 months out of the sun. Sunscreens may irritate baby skin, and an infant’s developing eyes are especially vulnerable to sunlight.
    • Wear sun-protective clothing that lists the garment’s Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) (the level of protection the garment provides from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays).
    • Parents should limit their child’s playtime during the hours when the sun is at its peak during the summer 10 am to 3 pm).
    • If you are at the pool or outside during these peak hours, remember to take breaks in the shade.