How to protect yourself from the sun

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Dr. Maryana Tselniker, RWJ Medical Associates

Experts from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital are ready to answer readers’ questions. Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjbh.org.

Now that summer is here, how can I keep myself safe in the sun?

Did you know that one in every five Americans will develop skin cancer? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Just 15 minutes sitting under the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause damage to your skin.

While skin cancer can be extremely serious, costly and potentially life threatening, most skin cancers can be prevented if proper sun safety measures are taken. Here are some helpful tips to protect you and your family.

Use sunscreen every day. Apply a broad spectrum sunscreen that has a SPF of at least 15 or higher. Be sure you apply sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outdoors, and apply a thick layer. Reapplication after sweating or swimming is essential to ensure lasting protection.

When outdoors, seek shady areas. This is especially important during the middle of the day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Trees, umbrellas or overhangs can offer a reprieve from the sun.
Cover yourself when it’s practical and wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants or skirts. When you are at the beach or pool, cover yourself with a cover-up or T-shirt. You should also always have a hat with you that can protect your head, neck and face.

Sunglasses are not just accessories. They also protect your eyes from UV rays as well as reduce the risk of cataracts. Further, they protect the skin around your eyes, which is very sensitive.

Be aware of your surroundings. Take extra care in protecting yourself when you are around surfaces like concrete, sand, water and snow (in the winter). All of these surfaces reflect the sun’s rays, making the effect on your skin stronger.

Finally, always remember that sunburns and skin damage are possible even when it is a cloudy or overcast day.

We all enjoy the summer months and the beach, pool and outdoor activities that come with it. With a few easy modifications to your daily routine, you can safely enjoy these activities and keep your skin protected!

—Dr. Maryana Tselniker, RWJ Medical Associates
This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician. Concerned about your health? Send your questions to askthedoc@rwjbh.org.