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Bookmark and Share Protecting yourself from the sun’s rays
By: David J. Dorenfeld, PA-C, Presbyterian Dermatology South

Picking the right sunscreen can be confusing. UVA... UVB... SPF? Where to begin?

For starters, you should purchase a new bottle of sunscreen every year that provides broad-spectrum protection from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays (UVA and UVB). Products with active ingredients including titanium dioxide or zinc oxide provide the most efficient coverage with the lowest irritation.

Broad spectrum sunscreens with sunscreen protection factor (SPF) rated 30 or higher are recommended. All sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before exposure to the sun and reapplied every two hours. They should be reapplied more frequently after swimming or sweating. Use sunscreen even on overcast days.

Following these recommendations for using sunscreen can help prevent sunburns, premature aging of the skin and potential skin cancers attributed to long-term sun exposure.

Here are some additional tips for protection against the sun’s damaging rays this summer:

  • Mother and daughter at the beachAvoid direct exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear your shade! Wide-brimmed hats are a great way to provide extra skin protection. Also, protective clothing like rash-guard shirts worn while swimming or at the beach can provide 50+ ultraviolet protection factor. A wet, cotton T-shirt only provides an ultraviolet protection factor of five.
  • Seek the shade whenever possible, but be aware: Ultraviolet rays can be reflected off water and metallic surfaces.

Don’t take sun protection lightly. Skin cancer is the most common cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. Each year, more than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,600 cases of skin cancer in 2013.

The good news is most skin cancers are treatable if detected early. Examine your skin monthly at home, and seek advice from your healthcare provider if you notice the following:

  • A sore or growth that will not heal, bleeds or is tender to touch may be a sign of a developing skin cancer.
  • An existing or new mole that develops:
    • Asymetry of color
    • Borders that become irregular and less smooth, notched or ill defined
    • Color that becomes darker or begins to fade
    • Diameter (size) increases
    • Evolution in appearance over a four-week period

Protecting your skin and detecting early changes will keep your skin healthy for life.

Presbyterian Dermatology South providers offer dermatological care for children, teens and adults. Patients receive personalized evaluation and are offered access to the newest treatments to manage and correct disorders of the skin, hair and nails.