Although a small amount of sunlight has its benefits, prolonged sun exposure leads to skin damage and an increased risk of cancer. Did you know it only takes five or more sunburns to significantly increase your risk of developing skin cancer? With young adults being the most frequent population being exposed to the sun, it is very important you protect your skin this summer.

Luckily, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the summer sun while minimizing the risk of skin damage.  Check out these 10 sun care prevention tips:

  1. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. There are two types of harmful UV lights, UVA and UVB. UVA rays increase skin-aging and UVB rays contribute to sunburns. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protects from both rays. Always use sunscreen with at least SPF 30, UVB and UVA protection. Don’t worry about SPF higher than 50 because it may only lead to a slight increase in UVB protection.
  1. Reapply often and generously. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure and at least every 2 hours after. Reapply every hour when exercising or swimming because sweat and water can wash off even water resistant sunscreen.  
  1. Always apply. Even if the sky is overcast, sunscreen is necessary. UV rays can penetrate clouds, so apply on cloudy days too. UV rays can also get through windows and water. Even if you don’t feel a burn in the pool or car, you may still get sun damage.
  1. Check the UV Index. Always check the UV Index for your area before planning a day outside, or use the shadow rule when already in the sun. The length of your shadow is proportionate to the strength of the sun. The shorter your shadow, the stronger the UV rays.
  1. Seek shade. Limit exposure to harmful UV rays by avoiding long periods of direct sunlight. The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 am – 4pm. Try to take cover or spend time indoors during these hours.
  1. Use extra caution near water and sand. These surfaces reflect sun rays, increasing the amount of UV exposure. A hat with a dark brim can limit the amount of UV exposure from reflective surfaces.
  1. Wear protective clothing. Slip on a shirt, slap on a hat, and reach for sunglasses! Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Reach for long sleeves or dark, woven fabrics for more protection. If you can see through a shirt, UV rays can get through. Look for UV-blocking sunglasses for the best eye protection.
  1. Limit tanning. Avoid intentional tanning, including tanning beds. Contrary to popular belief, getting a base tan will not protect against sun damage. If you want to look tan, try a natural, sunless self-tanning products and continue applying sunscreen. Check out the FDA recommendations here.
  1. Eat your Vitamin D. Vitamin D is  is produced when UV rays hit the skin and it’s necessary for healthy bone growth and strength. Add foods rich in vitamin D to your diet for a safer and healthier alternative to sunlight. This important vitamin is found naturally in egg yolks and fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Fortified foods are also a rich source. Check out fortified milk, orange juice and cereal.
  1. Check sun damage with a medical provider every year. Early detection is key! Student Health Services will have a medical provider giving sun damage screenings at Wellness Education’s Summer Splash Bash event on July 9 at the Juniper-Poplar Pool. Click here for more information. Throughout the year, registered students can have low-cost consultations with a dermatologist by making an appointment at the Student Health Clinic at (813) 974-2331.  

For additional information on preventing skin cancer and parental resources, please see Let’s be proactive and healthy Bulls this summer!

Contribution by Shannon Gordon