Memorial and Labor Day weekends act as seasonal bookends, signaling to the rest of the country when to begin and end their summer fun. Here in North Texas, we don’t need three-day weekends (but we’ll take them anyway, thank you very much) to know summer is in the house. We have this big yellow thing called the sun, and while he may show up at any time during the year, in the summertime he really turns on the burn.
According to the CDC, skin cancer rates are rising. Each year, more than 3.5 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the U.S. — more than the combined number of new breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers. To help you stay out of the ER with sunburned skin, blisters and peeling, stick with us and we’ll show you the best ways to safely enjoy all your outdoor activities.
Keep in mind that no one single step will fully protect you and your kids from the sun’s UV radiation.
To prevent cancer and premature aging, do all of these as often as possible:
- Wade in the shade. Always seek the shadiest spot, especially when in or near water or sand where the sun’s effects are increased by its reflection. If you’re worried about vitamin D, you probably shouldn’t be. The CDC reports most Americans are getting enough. Depending on your skin color, 5-30 minutes of sun exposure twice weekly will fulfill your RDA. A couple of lunchtime walks each week and you’ll be set.
- Deck out in tech. If you can’t get under cover, covering up from head to toe is the next best way to protect yourself. But it’s super impractical (and can lead to heat stroke) to don long sleeves and pants when it’s hot, unless they’re made from the newest tech fabrics. Check out these UV protective fashions for the whole family from the first clothing company recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Don’t forget to cover your eyes with full-spectrum UV protective sunglasses and the top of your head with a wide-brimmed hat as well.
- Pour yourself a shot … of sunscreen. To be very clear, we’re not saying drink sunscreen. But 1 ounce — enough to fill a shot glass — is the amount recommended by the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) to generously cover exposed areas. Use at least SPF 30 and adjust the amount based on body size and amount of clothing (or lack thereof).
- Lube left (and right). Do you have more freckles or wrinkles on the left side of your face (if you log a lot of driving miles) or on the right side (if you’re often a passenger)? Unlike your car’s windshield, which blocks about 90% of both UVA and UVB radiation, the side and rear windows don’t filter the sun’s harmful UVA rays. Studies show frequent drivers are more likely to develop skin cancers on the left side of their faces. In patients with malignant melanomas, the deadliest form of skin cancer, 74% of tumors were on the left. So indulge in those sunscreen shots on the weekend and enjoy them all week long to help keep your face younger looking and cancer free. You can also have UVA-filtering film installed on your side and rear windows or look for removable widow shades that work for you.
Put another candle on your cake, then check your birthday suit.
The AAD recommends checking your birthday suit once a year for suspicious areas including moles, freckles and age spots. Since these can occur anywhere on your body, you may opt to have a dermatologist or good friend help. But it is possible to do it yourself. This body mole map will show you how to do it and what to look for while providing a handy place to log your results for future reference. If you find any spots that are different from others or are changing, itching or bleeding, make an appointment to see a board-certified dermatologist.
You can also sign up to receive alerts for free skin cancer screenings in your area.
If you or your child do get a bad sunburn or heat stroke, one of our many Medical City ER locations across North Texas has you covered. With average wait times posted online, if you do have an emergency, you can spend less time waiting and more time on the moments that matter most.
Find a fast Medical City ER near you.