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On Spring Break? Be Sun Safe

By March 22, 2009

This week is the height of spring break, when millions of college students head to Florida, Cancun, or Cabo San Lucas to let off some proverbial steam. (And when everybody else runs in the opposite direction!) It's also a perfect time for some basic reminders about staying safe in the sun.

Although urging caution to teenagers may be the definition of a "fool's errand," sun safety is no laughing matter: melanoma skin cancer is the number one cause of cancer death in women aged 25 to 30, not to mention the possibility of causing disfiguring basal or squamous cell carcinoma, actinic keratosis, cataracts, unsightly skin spots, wrinkles, and "leathery" skin decades later.

Follow these tips to prevent skin cancer, especially if you have one or more risk factors:

  • Stay out of the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., even on overcast days (clouds only block 20% of ultraviolet energy). Minimally, wear a hat or a tight-weave shirt, which are considerably more effective than sunscreen.
  • If that's not desirable, apply one ounce (a palm full) of sunscreen to all exposed skin 15 minutes before venturing outdoors. The sunscreen container should specify a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or above and should state that it provides UVA and UVB protection.
  • PABA-free sunscreens are recommended for persons with sensitive skin. Susceptible individuals may also want to avoid products containing oxybenzone and dioxbenzone.
  • Sunscreen should be re-applied at least every two hours, especially if frequently swimming.
  • Wear sunglasses stating that they provide 100% UVA and UVB (broad-spectrum) protection.
  • Avoid tanning salons, tanning beds, and sunlamps, which don't offer any protection for subsequent sun exposure.

Have fun and stay safe!

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