This past weekend I ran the 5k Sun Run, an event put together by the Melissa K. Bambino Melanoma Foundation, which was established by the friends and family of Melissa Bambino, who lost her life to Melanoma at the age of 29. In its fifth year, the race promotes sun safety as well as the importance of an annual skin exam, with the proceeds donated to Melanoma research and awareness. Did you know that skin cancer could be lethal? If you're a Grey's Anatomy fan, this same message has been driven home in the season's final episodes, hopefully inspiring awareness the dangers of the sun. Confused about what you should be doing? Start protecting your skin with these simple tips.
1. Visit a dermatologist for an annual skin exam.
2. Topical antioxidants applied to your skin can help prevent some sun damage, says Diane S. Berson, MD, Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Cornell University Weill Medical College in New York City. Look for products containing antioxidants such as green tea, coenzyme Q10, vitamin C and retinol, a vitamin A derivative.
3. Choose at least SPF 15, but higher is better, especially since most people don't use as much sunscreen as they should or re-apply it frequently enough. What's more, research shows that products often give less protection in sunlight than their SPF numbers suggest. Even if the SPF 30 or 45 costs a bit more, it's worth the extra expense.
4. While there are numerous sunscreen formulations, choose those that are labeled "broad-spectrum." This means they block both UVA and UVB rays. Many sunscreens only block UVB.
5. You may prefer using a sunblock to a sunscreen. Sunblocks provide a physical barrier between your skin and both UVA and UVB rays, but may feel heavier. Dr. Berson recommends sunblocks containing zinc oxide or titanium oxide.
6. What you wear can help keep UV light away. Darker, tightly-woven fabrics are better than lighter, loose-knit or wet clothing. "A white t-shirt has an SPF of about 5; a wet, white t-shirt has an SPF of 1 or 2. That's not really protecting you," Dr. Berson says. Some clothing lines offer UV-protective fabrics in sportswear, bathing suits and hats.
7. Before going out, check the UV Index. This daily forecast included in many weather reports rates the intensity of UV rays expected each day when the sun is at its highest. Exposure ratings are scaled from 0 (minimal) to 10+ (very high). Use special caution anytime the UV Index is 5 or higher.
For more tips on sun protection, click here.
For melanoma warning signs, click here.