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Healthy Tewksbury: Summer Sun Safety Basics

As we head into warmer, and hopefully sunnier, months it’s a good idea to refresh yourself on summer sun safety basics. 

If you are planning to head outdoors, apply sunscreen about 30 minutes before you go out. Reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating. Keep this in mind especially if you are out between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun is most intense and you may sweat. When applying sunscreen, don’t forget the bridge of your nose, your ears and any visible scalp. 

Sunscreens come in a wide variety of SPFs or sun protection factors. Both UVA and UVB rays cause sunburns and skin damage, but UVB rays are more associated with skin cancer; be sure to look for a sunscreen that blocks both types of rays.

Both the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation recommend SPF of at least 30 to 50, although certain people with a history of skin cancer may require a higher SPF.

Sunscreens are recommended for all skin colors to prevent skin cancer. Protection from the sun also can help prevent other signs of sun damage, like wrinkles and sunspots. Learn more about what active ingredients to look for in a sunscreen.

Because tanning beds also use UV rays, they can also cause skin cancer and skin damage and should be avoided.

It’s very important to get an annual skin check with a dermatologist to detect skin cancers early. Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are common skin cancers with a 95% cure rate; certain skin cancers, like melanoma, can be deadly if allowed to spread.  

During a skin check, your dermatology health care provider will inspect all of your skin with a magnifying glass looking for large moles or moles with changing color, bleeding or irregular borders. If there are any suspicious lesions, the dermatologist can take a biopsy to determine if skin cancer is present. 

If you note any of these on your own inspection, be sure to get them checked out by your dermatologist or primary care provider. If you don’t have a dermatologist, ask your primary care provider for a recommendation and a referral.

The fact is that skin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than one million cases reported annually, according to the FDA. A little protection now can help you avoid problems later.

Did you know that Friday, May 27 — the Friday before Memorial Day — is officially designated “Don’t Fry Day” by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention? Parents and educators can download an activities toolkit to help get kids ready for safe summer fun.

Nicole Burgett-Yandow, NP has a Masters Degree in Nursing with over 19 years of health care experience. Currently, she practices at Winchester Hospital Center for Weight Management as well as providing after hours on call coverage for patients within the Atrius system. She has worked in a variety of settings including primary care and infectious disease. She has been a Tewksbury resident since 2009 and has two kids in the Tewksbury Public Schools.

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