To decrease your risk of developing skin cancer, here are some all-around, good-sense recommendations:
- Ask your pharmacist or physician if any medications or supplements you're taking will increase your sun sensitivity. Certain antibiotics (i.e., cipro, floxin) and medications containing the sulfa group (i.e., bactrim) can do just that. And some blood-pressure medications like beta blockers and diuretics, especially thiazides (i.e., HCTZ), can make you more susceptible to heat-related illnesses. Even an herbal preparation like St. John's Wort can greatly increase your risk for getting a nasty sunburn.
- I know it can be difficult, but try and avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use a sunscreen that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and protects against UV-A and UV-B light. Don't forget to apply sunscreen at least a half hour before going out in the sun. Most sunscreens evaporate or rub off fairly quickly, so reapply them according to the directions on the bottle. Generally, you need at least an ounce to cover your body effectively.
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat that keeps the sun off of your face and neck. For those who are follicle-challenged (thinning hair), protect your scalp by wearing a hat.
- Wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection.
- Wear clothes with the UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) label. They can reduce your UV exposure by 15 times. For style-conscious folks, there are some cool-looking designs by Solarweave and Solumbra. Clothing without UPF protection should be washed with laundry detergents (i.e., Rit Whitener and Brighteners, or Sunguard) that contain optical brighteners, which protect against UV rays. Also note that darker colors absorb more UV than lighter ones, and cotton offers little protection against the sun.
- Don't let your children get sunburned. Put sunscreen on them when they go outdoors (there are special formulations available for children age 6 and under). Infants 6 months and younger should be kept out of the sun altogether. Remember, children who get sunburned may experience the sun's damaging effects many years after exposure.
- Lastly, it's important to know that tanning salons can cause serious skin damage. My best advice is to put your health ahead of your vanity and stay away from them.