Sunscreen every day may keep the doctor away
Colorado is one of the sunniest states, so practicing sun safety is important all year, especially heading into the summer months. Basal cell skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed, and is on the rise. Diane Shepard, a licensed esthetician at Castle Pines Skincare said, “I personally practice preventative measures such as avoiding sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., wearing protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses.”
Despite weather or season, using sunscreen daily is key since UV rays can damage skin in as little as 15 minutes. Shepard recommended using a mineral sunscreen that includes zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. “Mineral sunscreens are also ideal for children, people with sensitive skin and people with melasma, a skin condition characterized by brown or blue-gray patches or freckle-like spots,” Shepard added. Pick a sunscreen with strong UVA protection as UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin. Shepard exclaimed, “Sunscreen is the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth.”
The Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Guide to Sunscreens provides a thorough evaluation of more than 1,850 products with SPF, including moisturizers and lip products. EWG found that only about 500 of these products offer adequate sun protection without added, concerning ingredients. The database makes it easy to look up one’s favorite sunscreen and/or choose a new one based on the ratings.
Some of the risk factors for melanoma are out of one’s control, such as family history, the number of moles on a person’s skin, fair skin and freckles. Three additional risk factors that one can control include exposure to UV radiation, tanning beds and severe sunburns. Though a common practice, EWG warns against using sunscreen as a tool to prolong time in the sun.
Shepard also pointed out that many medications and topical products are photosensitizers that make people more sensitive to sun exposure and cause severe reactions such as burning, hyperpigmentation, and allergic reactions.
Shepard recommends getting screened for vitamin D deficiency, which is common. Check regularly for new moles or ones that are growing or changing, and see a dermatologist for a periodic skin check.
Twice as many men die from melanoma as women so it’s important for men to follow the above tips and a reminder for all to put on sunscreen before walking out the door.
For more information, visit www.ewg.org.
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of Diane Shepard