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How to protect yourself from the damaging effects of the sun

It is the shank of summer which means it’s hot. Really hot! This is the time when it’s nice to keep cool by being in water – either the pool or the beach. Water is a wonderful way to reduce your body temperature but how do you protect your skin from the damaging effects of the sun which includes skin cancer, premature aging, and other forms of skin damage while you frolic? Here are some tips:

  1. Use sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 which will protect you against 95% of the damaging effects of the sun. Compare this to SPF 50 which protects against 97%.

  2. Apply every 2 hours especially if you are in the water or sweat.

  3. Try to stay out of the sun during the peak UVA and UVB times – between 10 and 2.

  4. When you are done with the water but still outside wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, long sleeves, and pants for additional protection.

Skin cancer can be a result of sun exposure and can affect anyone no matter their ethnicity or skin color. The good news is you can take steps to protect yourself which include monthly self-exams. Here’s what to look for:

  • Asymmetry – uneven shape – two sides do not match

  • Border – ragged edges – borders are uneven

  • Color – two or more colors

  • Diameter – larger than ¼ inch

  • Evolving – changing in size, shape, color, or symptoms

What you will need to check:

  1. A full-length mirror and hand mirror

  2. A brightly lit room

  3. A smartphone or paper to take notes

  4. A comb to help part your hair

Pick a convenient time for your monthly checklist which should take about 10 minutes:

  1. Check your scalp

  2. Look at your nose, lips, cheeks, and ears with a mirror

  3. Look at your upper back. You’ll need two mirrors

  4. Focus on your neck, chest, and torso with two mirrors

  5. Give your hands, fingers, forearms, upper arms, and armpits a good scan

  6. Check your lower back, buttocks, and genital area

  7. Closely look at your legs and feet. Do not forget to look between your toes and the soles of your feet

Take a picture of anything that looks unusual and talk to your doctor.

Enjoy the sun!

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