Stay in the Shade

Relaxing in the Florida sun. Nothing better, right?

Unfortunately, a sunburn can appear that evening and damage to our skin can appear years from now.

It’s good to keep in mind that Florida’s ultraviolet index (UV) is stronger due to the proximity to the equator compared to other U.S. states. Our weather can be intense with higher temperatures and extended daylight in the summer.  A long day at the beach can lead to UV ray overexposure, damage to the DNA of skin cells and a high likelihood that you will ultimately have skin cancer.

UV Rays

“The strength of the UV rays reaching the ground depends on a number of factors, such as time of the day, season of the year, latitude, altitude, reflection off surfaces, and cloud coverage. People who live in areas with year-round, bright sunlight like Florida have a higher risk of skin cancer,” said USF Health dermatologist Dr. Lucia Seminario-Vidal.

There are three main types of UV rays: UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA rays are linked to chronic skin damage such as wrinkles and play a role in some skin cancers. Most tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA. UVB rays are more potent than UVA rays, cause sunburns, and are thought to cause most skin cancers. UVC rays have more energy than the other types of UV rays, but they don’t penetrate our atmosphere, so they are not a cause of skin cancer.

”If you are going to be in the sun, remember to ’Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!’, a  phrase you can use to help you recall key steps to protect yourself from UV rays: slip on a sun-protective shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses,” Dr. Seminario-Vidal said.

It’s important to protect your skin from sun exposure to help prevent skin cancer, especially melanoma. Melanoma represents only 1% of all skin cancers, but it is the cause of the majority of skin cancer deaths.

Skin Protection Tips

  • Stay in the shade when possible.  Limit time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Sand and water reflect UV rays, so be extra diligent with sun protection.
  • Apply sunscreen every two hours, especially during prime sun hours from 10 a.m to 3 p.m.
  • Be sure to generously apply sunscreen SPF 40-50.  It is the best bet for complete sun protection. SPF 30 is commonly recommended because it provides 97% protection, but many times it’s not applied correctly.
  • Spray sun protection is harder to apply evenly, so lotion is preferred for stronger coverage.
  • Reflective sunscreen such as zinc oxide is a good option for sensitive skin.
  • Wear a wide brim hat that provides coverage of ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection that cover not only your eyes, but also your eyelids. Eyelids have very thin skin susceptible to the development of skin cancers. 5-10% of all skin cancers develop on the eyelids.
  • Long sleeves or a sun shirt with a UPF 50 are recommended.
  • Avoid tanning beds, they emit UVA and UVB radiation, sometimes stronger then sun exposure.
  • Avoid the sun if you’re taking any medications that make your skin more sensitive to UV radiation.

Skin Cancer (Melanoma) Awareness – Looking for the Ugly Duckling Spot

The American Cancer Society recommends the ABCDE rule to help guide identifying melanoma:

  • A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
  • B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
  • C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include different shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
  • D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch – the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas are sometimes smaller than this.
  • E is for Evolving: The mole changes in size, shape, or color.

If found and treated early, skin cancer, including melanoma is curable, which is why it is very important to have your skin checked regularly by a dermatologist. For your next skin screening, contact USF Health Dermatology at (813) 974-4744. To learn more about your individual sun protections needs, read our second blog, Customized Sun Protection.

Written By: Kathleen Rogers

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