Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of their lifetime, most of these a direct result of exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Of the different forms of skin cancer, melanoma is the most deadly. In the late 1990’s, one in 90 people would develop melanoma in their lifetime. In 2010, melanoma affected about one in 55 people. The incidence of melanoma continues to increase 4% to 6% annually.
Spring break is here. What do you recommend to your clients for sun-protection?
Sunscreen is always a staple for summer sun protection. My favorite sunscreen is Blue Lizard Baby, a chemical-free sunscreen, which I recommend for both adults and children. The active ingredients in this product are titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which block both UVA and UVB. Another favorite is California Baby sunscreen – I really like the California Baby SPF 30 sunblock stick for quick reapplication of sunscreen under the eyes and on the nose.
I also recommend sun protective swimwear while engaging in activity at the beach, lake, or pool. It is important to make sure that the swimwear has an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label on it, ideally UPF 40 or higher – just using a regular T-shirt in the water will not give significant protection. For girls and women, I highly recommend Girls4Sport. Girls4Sport has a wide variety of stylish short and long sleeve swim tops, bottoms, and board shorts available with a UPF of 50.
Do you recommend staying out of the sun during the peak times, or it is OK if wearing the protection you recommend?
Ideally, you should stay out of the sun from 10am to 4pm and seek shade whenever possible. Obviously, during the summer this is not always possible. Sun protective swimwear, sun protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses help to reduce the damaging effects of the sun during these peak times. It is also key to reapply sunscreen to exposed areas per the manufacturer’s directions.
Is sun block/sunscreen (lotions) or sun-protective clothing better for sun-protection?
Sunscreen will always play a role in sun protection, since it isn’t practical to completely cover up with sun-protective clothing. However, sunscreen is expensive, and must be frequently reapplied to be effective. I recommend that people use sun protective clothing to the greatest extent that they can, since it provides constant protection. Sun-protective clothing is stylish and practical, and generally will cost much less than the sunscreen necessary to adequately protect the same area.
What about kids, anything more specific to protect their skin?
For children, I recommend long sleeve sun-protective shirts and board shorts or body suits for use in water. There are a lot of options out there now for kids – mine really like the board shorts and rash guards. I also recommend that parents try to use physical blockers (zinc and titanium dioxide) rather than using chemical blockers. The physical blockers give a broader coverage for UVA and UVB, and are generally better tolerated by kids’ sensitive skin.
We’re hearing that sun in small amounts is good for us to make vitamin D. What do you recommend?
Most of us get all the vitamin D we need through normal sun exposure during the course of a week. Additionally, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a healthy diet, including foods naturally high in vitamin D, fortified foods and beverages, and if recommended by your doctor, vitamin supplements. There’s no need to be a hermit, but when engaging in extended outdoor activity during the summer, sun protection to avoid skin cancer and premature aging of the skin is the more pressing issue.
Beth Schulz-Butulis, DO