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Sun Safety Tips to Avoid Skin Damage

By Liberty Hospital

Skin cancer is the last thing on families’ minds as they hit the lakes and enjoy the outdoors during the summer. While sunscreen has become a staple in moms’ beach bags, it hasn’t deterred the wave of skin cancer cases in the United States. More skin cancers are diagnosed in the United States each year than all other cancers combined, according to the American Cancer Society.

Most people like to get a little sun,” said Jan Watkins, R.N., M.S., OCN, CHPN, Director of Oncology Services at Liberty Hospital. “Its warmth and light can relax us and boost our spirits. But the benefits come with a dangerous tradeoff. So, whenever you venture out in the sun, be smart about it.”

Being smart about sun exposure means always using some form of protection from the sun’s damaging rays. Jamie Rigden, M.D., of Saint Luke’s Cancer Specialists at Liberty Hospital recommends that everyone — no matter their skin tone — use at least a 15 SPF (Sun Protection Factor) sunscreen or protective clothing.

“Sunscreen isn’t ‘once and done,’” Dr. Rigden said. “Apply it first about half an hour before sun exposure to allow it to sink in. Then, reapply frequently, especially when getting in water or sweating.”

A common mistake people make, Dr. Rigden said is thinking that the higher the SPF, then the less it needs to be applied. “It doesn’t matter if the sunscreen is SPF 15 or SPF 50, they all have to be reapplied.”

The best protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays is clothing, including hats and sunglasses. “A tan is not a healthy thing,” Dr. Rigden said. “It is damaged skin. When you use protective clothing or sunscreen, you’re not only fighting skin cancer, but also aging effects.”

Parents concerned with chemicals used in sunscreen can find lotions without preservatives and perfumes. Those are less likely to cause allergic reactions on sensitive skin, Dr. Rigden said. Whatever sun protection parents choose for themselves and their families, using some form is critical.

“Skin cancers are life changing, and melanoma is deadly,” Dr. Rigden said. “Limit your sun exposure — and never use a tanning bed.”

Liberty Hospital continues to expand its cancer services in the community. Liberty Hospital recently approved a clinical affiliation with Saint Luke’s Cancer Institute to bring needed cancer diagnosis and treatment options closer to patients.


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