What You Need to Know about Sun Exposure and Sun Protection

The weather is warming up and it’s a great time to be outdoors, but with skin cancer equaling 50% of all cancer cases in the U.S., it’s important to consider some facts and take precautions before heading outside this summer.

Facts to consider about sun exposure and skin cancer

  • Having as few as 5 sunburns in your lifetime doubles your risk of melanoma.
  • Melanoma is responsible for most skin cancer-related deaths; one American dies of melanoma every hour.
  • Skin cancer affects any area of the body, but is more common on sun-exposed locations, such as the face, ears, and hands.
  • A “base tan” does not protect you from sunburn or sun damage, but actually increases your risk of skin cancer.
  • Eyes are susceptible to the damaging effects of the sun; cataracts can be caused by sun exposure.
  • Three of the most common mistakes people make when using sunscreen are:
    1. Not applying enough sunscreen
    2. Not re-applying sunscreen
    3. Avoiding exposed, but sensitive areas, such as the lips or ears.

Tips to protect your skin and avoid sunburn

  • Choose a sunscreen that offers the following:
    • Broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB protection)
    • SPF 30 or greater
    • Water resistance
  • Seek shade! The sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Apply sunscreen 20-30 minutes before swimming; make sure to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours when outdoors.
  • Use protective barriers, such as sun-protective clothing and wide-brim hats. Long-sleeve fishing shirts, rash guards, and pants are great options for long, sun-filled days.
  • Wear sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Remember, clouds and water DO NOT protect against the sun’s rays. Clouds only block up to 20% of UV rays. UV effects are magnified when reflected off of snow, sand, and water.

Dr. Ploch’s sunblock picks to protect yourself this summer:

  • Elta MD UV Pure SPF 47
  • Neutrogena Pure and Free Baby SPF 60
  • Blue Lizard Sensitive Skin SPF 30
  • Vanicream Lip Protectant SPF 30

For more information about sun safety, click here.

Lauren Eckert Ploch

Lauren Eckert Ploch, MD, MEd
Dr. Ploch is a native of New Orleans. She completed her undergraduate studies at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, where she also received a Master... read more