Protect your skin
Watch out for sun's harmful effects
By CHEYANNE GONZALES firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no denying the fact that it has been a hot summer, but many people don't realize the harmful effects the summer sun can have on unprotected skin.
The most important thing to remember during the summer is absolutely no one is safe from the sun's harmful rays.
David Meir, director of cardiac and oncology services at Alliance Community Hospital, suggests staying inside when the sun is directly overhead and the day is at its hottest. If people do need to go outside, they should take precautions such as wearing long sleeve clothes, sunglasses and sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 30.
According to Meir, a good way to remember when the sun is at its strongest is by looking at shadows. When your shadow is shorter than you, the sun is at its highest intensity. That is when people should avoid being outside or should stay in the shade.
Sunscreen is a good way to protect skin from the UVA and UVB rays that can cause damage, but it does need to be reapplied every two hours.
"UVA and UVB rays are both harmful rays that you cannot see," Meir said.
The harmful rays of the sun are what cause the most damage to the skin, and sunscreen was designed to protect the skin for short periods of time throughout the day. Activities such as swimming or those which produce large amounts of perspiration require reapplying sunscreen more often.
Many people enjoy getting tan during the summer, but it's important to remember that any darkening of the skin is really causing damage. The dark color is caused by melanin being released, which is the substance in the body that creates skin color.
While some believe tanning beds are a safe alternative, the reality is they can be just as bad or even worse than the sun. In tanning beds, a person has no control over the intensity of the light; it all varies depending on the type of bed and the lightbulbs used.
According to Meir, sun and tanning beds are the main causes of skin cancer. There are three types of skin cancers that create a majority of the cases: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell and melanoma. Basal cell and squamous can often be benign or non-cancerous, while melanoma is the most dangerous because it has the ability to spread beneath the skin and throughout the body.
"Most of the skin cancers are very treatable," Meir said.
If caught in the early stages, all of the cancers are highly treatable by removing the affected area. Some of the cancers will require chemotherapy to prevent a reoccurrence from happening. He said it's important to note that people who have had skin cancer are at a much higher risk of developing it again. They should avoid being in the sun, and if they need to be outside, the area where the cancer was found should not be exposed to the sun's rays.
Meir encourages people to check their skin constantly for any moles that look like they could be problematic. If a mole varies in color, texture, shape, or if it changes drastically over a short period of time, an appointment should be made with a dermatologist to have the area checked out.
Some people are at a higher risk of developing skin cancer than others. People with fair skin, taking certain types of medication, who live in higher altitudes or in areas with more exposure to the sun have a greater risk of skin cancer forming.
People with repeat exposure to sun and tanning beds while unprotected before the age of 30 will be at a much higher risk of developing one of the types of skin cancer.
For people who want tanned and darker skin, he said a better and healthier alternative is spray tanning, but even spray tans don't protect people from the harmful effects of the sun.
"Our goal is to make our city as healthy as can be," Meir added.
He hopes people will take the time to cover up and take the proper precautions before they leave the house to limit their chance of being harmed by the summer sun.