Saving Your Skin This Summer
Summer came June 21st this year, and as if we needed to be reminded that summer is always warmer than spring – the high temperatures quickly ratcheted up to 100 degrees and then some.
Protecting our skin from skin cancer is something we need to be thinking about year-round in New Mexico, but it’s when temperatures are at their hottest, and we’re more inclined to be wearing the least that we tend to put ourselves at the most risk.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The deadliest form of skin cancer is melanoma. Most cases of melanoma are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UVA) light which we get from either the sun or indoor tanning. If left untreated, melanoma can spread throughout the body, and it can kill us. The New Mexico Tumor Registry reports the average number of new melanoma cases in NM during 2008-2012 was 406 per year. Also, the average number of melanoma deaths in NM during 2009-2013 was 60 per year.
That’s why the New Mexico Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend these easy options to lower your skin cancer risks:
- Avoid indoor tanning
- When outside, stay in the shade, especially during midday hours
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs
- Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays
- Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection
Here’s the thing though about using sunscreen: we say all the time to use it, but a recent CDC study found that most Americans don't use sunscreen regularly. In fact, fewer than 15 percent of men and fewer than 30 percent of women reported using sunscreen regularly on their face and other exposed skin when outside for more than one hour.
Most sunscreens with an SPF of 15 or higher do a great job of protecting against ultraviolet radiation. SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor - which is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UV rays from damaging the skin. Here's how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen, in theory, prevents reddening 15 times longer — about five hours.
But here’s the thing about that “in theory” part: if you’re out in the sun, you’re probably sweating, or swimming or most any other activity, and shade’s not always easy to come by in New Mexico. That means you’re likely shedding your sunscreen protection long before those five hours are up.
There’s an important lesson from this: no sunscreen, regardless of strength, should be expected to stay effective longer than two hours without reapplication.
So when choosing sunscreen at the store, think about how much sun you’re going to get. SPF 15, the Skin Cancer Foundation says, is generally good enough for activities with a few minutes here and there in the sun.
However, if you work outside or spend a lot of time outdoors, you need stronger, water-resistant, beachwear-type sunscreen that holds together on your skin. The "water resistant" and "very water resistant" types are also good for hot days or while playing sports, because they're less likely to drip into your eyes when you sweat, but again they need to be reapplied every two hours.
Whatever you do, remember skin cancer is preventable, but it’s up to you: be sure to put on that sunscreen before you go outside.
We would be happy to provide additional information about this press release. Simply contact David Morgan at 575-528-5197 (Office) or 575-649-0754 (Mobile) with your questions.
Versión en Español
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