Every summer, we are so eager to bask in the rays of that golden orb that we forget it can be dangerous...at least until that first painful sunburn.
Here’s some advice on how to protect yourself from the sun.
10 Facts about Sun Protection
#1 Seek the shade.
The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but that doesn’t mean you can’t still get a sunburn other times even if you slather on sunscreen. During that period., not only is the sun at its strongest, it’s also more reflective, which means you can get a sunburn even if you have a hat on.
Shade can also reduce the chance of hypothermia, which is especially important for seniors, who have a higher risk.
Did you know? Shade may provide only partial protection from the sun. Ultraviolet rays can bounce back up from surfaces such as concrete, sand and water, so you may still get a sunburn even if you’re under an umbrella. Clouds may provide little protection from ultraviolet rays.
#2 Do not burn.
Sunburn is a sign of skin damage. Getting a bad sunburn just once every two years can triple your risk of melanoma. As for those people who say their burn turns into a tan, they’re not all wrong: Sunburn and suntan both increase the risk of skin cancer.
As for seniors who move to a warmer climate, here’s a warning: One bad burn when you’re older may trigger skin cancer.
Did you know? Although you can’t get a sunburn from sitting in front of a window, you are still exposed to UVA rays, which can cause skin damage and cancer.
#3 Avoid tanning and UV tanning beds.
Tanning is a sign of skin damage, and tanning increases the risk of skin cancer. Because tanning beds usually use UVA rays, you may not see signs of skin damage. UVA rays are even more damaging to the skin and result in a greater risk of skin cancer.
UVB rays, which are more similar to the sun’s rays, initiate long-term protective mechanisms, including melanin production, skin thickening, and signaling DNA repair systems.
No matter how old you are or even if your skin looks like leather, it’s critical to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays.
Did you know? The sun protection factor (SPF) of a base tan is 3. Scientists discovered that a base tan puts light-skinned people at greater risk of developing skin cancer. A tan from a tanning bed offers a maximum 1.5 SPF.
#4 Cover up with clothing.
A broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses are basics. A broad-brimmed hat increases your total SPF by at least 10, according to experts, although you should still apply sunscreen to exposed skin.
The National Institutes of health warns seniors that an estimated 20% of cataracts are caused by UV exposure. UV exposure also causes macular degeneration, the top cause of blindness in the U.S.
Consumer Reports tested expensive protective clothing against tightly woven regular clothing, and the regular clothing did very well for sun protection, so special clothing is not a requirement.
Did you know? Clothing has an SPF factor, too, but it’s called UPF for ultraviolet protection factor. Fair-skinned people can burn even with clothing. Fair-skinned people or those working on highly reflective surfaces should wear clothing with a minimum UPF factor of 15.
#5 Use sunscreen.
Even if you’re walking from your house to your car, put on a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Apply 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
Broad spectrum means the sunscreen protects from UVA and UVB rays; however, there is no rating for UVA protection. To ensure the best UVA protection, look for the ingredients zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, sulisobenzone, meradimate (methyl anthranilate), ecamsule (Mexoryl SX), dioxybenzone, or avobenzone in your sunscreen.
The skin of older adults is more susceptible to substances. Use a sunscreen for sensitive skin if you’ve ever experienced any problems.
Did you know? As you age, your skin thins and becomes more susceptible to sun and environmental damage, so if your sunscreen is supposed to last for 2 hours, deduct about 15 minutes. Better yet, spend no more than 2 hours in the sun, even with protection.
#6 Beware reflective surfaces.
Reflective surfaces, such as water, sand, snow, and concrete can bounce the sun’s rays right onto your skin.
Did you know? Grass, soil or water reflect less than 10% of UV radiation, sand reflects about 15%, and sea foam about 25 per cent. Fresh snow almost doubles a person's UV exposure.
#7 Consider your risk factors.
According to the National Cancer Institute, risk factors for nonmelanoma skin cancer include fair skin, light-colored eyes, and red or blonde hair; past treatment with radiation; actinic keratosis; a weakened immune system; and being exposed to arsenic.
Risk factors for melanoma include fair skin, light-colored eyes, and red or blonde hair; long-term sun exposure; history of blistering sunburns; several large or many small moles; family history of unusual moles; family or personal history of melanoma; and being white.
The major risk factor, of course, is sun exposure over your entire life. The older you get, the more likely you are to develop some form of skin cancer.
Did you know? Actinic keratosis is a crusty, scaly growth on the skin caused by damage from exposure to ultraviolet radiation. If you’re over 50, it’s likely you have at least one. See an image here.
#8 Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
Follow the instructions in our informative article, You’re Never Too Old to Prevent Skin Cancer, to check your skin according to expert recommendations.
Did you know? Melanoma can appear in the strangest places, such as under nails, behind the ears, bottoms of feet, and palms of hands.
#9 Check for interactions.
Exposure to certain substances, including coal tar, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, some antibiotics, some anti-inflammatories, tranquilizers, anti-nausea drugs, psoralens found in plants. increases the skin’s sensitivity to light
As noted at Everyday Health, the following medications increase sensitivity:
—Antihistamine and sedative drugs, like Benadryl (diphenhydramine), and Phenergan (promethazine)
—Common antibiotics like tetracycline, fluoroquinolones like Cipro, and sulfa drugs like Bactrim (trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole)
—Depression meds like Elavil (amitriptyline) and Sinequan (doxepin), for example
—Diuretics, also called water pills, for example, Lasix (furosemide)
—Heart-condition drugs, like ACE inhibitor Captopril and arrhythmia drugs like Cordarone (amiodarone)
—Pain relievers like Advil (ibuprofen) and the NSAID Aleve (naproxen)
Did you know? Water that has been contaminated with arsenic is associated with skin cancer, even if arsenic levels are below the 2001 Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) maximum. What are the arsenic levels where you live?
#10 See your doctor every year.
Even if you check thoroughly, you’re more likely than your doctor to miss moles or actinic keratoses that may develop into skin cancer. As with most cancers, the earlier melanoma is spotted, the more likely it can be treated successfully.
Did you know? Certain chemoprotective substances are currently being investigated to determine if they can help prevent skin cancer. Studies using vitamin B3 have shown promise, but those with beta carotene and selenium have not.
Did You Know?
At Sugar Hill Retirement Community, we fully believe in the saying, “If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything.” That’s why we publish helpful information about the physical, mental, and social health of older adults. Our goal is to help the residents of our cooperative retirement community live vibrant, full lives. Learn how by scheduling your tour today! 603-569-8485