Protect Your Skin

Do you know what the largest organ is in the human body? Well believe it or not, it is the skin.  The skin has several important functions.  It protects us against the climate, sunlight, injury and infection.  But in order for the skin to remain healthy, we must protect it.  July is National Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month, the perfect time to increase awareness of the risk of sun damage and the importance of sun safety.

Skin Cancer is the most common type of cancer in the US and the most preventable. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer.  Over the years, there have been several research studies linking overexposure to the sun with skin cancer.  Harmful UV rays from both the sun and sunlamps (tanning beds) can cause many complications besides cancer. UV damage can also cause premature wrinkles, skin discolorations, age spots, leathery skin, eye problems and even a weakened immune system. Although certain groups of people are at increase risk, everyone is at risk that spends a lot time in the sun or exposed to UV rays.
Luckily, there are simple and easy steps we can take to protect our skin from the sun and harmful UV radiation.

  1. The sun’s rays are the strongest from mid-morning to late afternoon.  Try to stay in shaded areas between 10 am and 4 pm.

  1. Wear proper clothing.  Although not always practical, protective clothing includes long sleeves shirts and pants.  It also includes protection for your head and eyes.  When in the sun, remember the importance of wide brimmed hats and UV resistant sunglasses.  Even on cloudy days, the suns rays can cause damage, making protective clothing important all year round.

  1. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen.  The FDA recommends using sunscreens that are broad based but also have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and it should cover all exposed areas of the skin including areas covered by light clothing.  Do not forget to reapply sunscreen every few hours, especially after a swim or sweat.

  1. Avoid burns.  Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing complications from overexposure to the sun and cancer.  Sun tanned skin is damaged skin.  Whether sunburn or a suntan, damage is being done to the skin. It is especially important that children be kept from sunburns as well. 

It is important to check your skin (head to toe) regularly for any changes. Look for any new discolorations, moles or other marks that are different.  To help determine whether these changes are significant or a warning sign of cancer:  look for asymmetry, one side looking different from the other side; irregular and/or uneven borders; color changes and any change in size, shape or elevation (raised or patchy).  If you find anything unusual or question any skin changes, please consult your health care provider.

Although the summer is filled with vacation and days of fun in the sun, we should never forget to take care of our skin, so that it may continue to take of us.

Live Well,
Dr. D.
 
Davida J. White, M.D.
Chief Wellness Officer
Favor Nation

www.cdc.gov
www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/types/skin
www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3166/osha3166.html
www.nia.nih.gov/health/publication/skin-care-and-aging

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