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Fun in the Sun-Safely!

Fun in the Sun-Safely!

Local dermatologist offers tips on preventing sun burns and skin cancer

Summer days are here. The sun is shining and the weather is warm. It’s a great time to get out in the garden or take the family to the beach. But what about sunbathing?

Is there ever a safe way to get a golden tan? What about general safeguards against the sun? How should you protect you and your family from the damage sun can do — both today and long term?

Sunil Dhawan, MD, a Washington Hospital-affiliated dermatologist, will provide answers to these and many other questions at the Health & Wellness seminar, Sun: Beauty or Beast? This seminar will be presented on Tuesday, August 16, at 3:30 p.m. live on Facebook and YouTube (Facebook.com/WashingtonHosp or YouTube.com/whhsInHealth).

“Skin cancer (melanoma) is increasing very rapidly,” Dr. Dhawan says. “It’s 15 times more common now than in the 1930s. That’s why it’s so important to know how to protect your skin and to have your skin checked annually for early sun damage.”

Fair skinned, blue eyes, blond or red-haired people have a very high risk of developing skin cancer, according to Dr. Dhawan. Individuals with darker skin can still develop skin cancer but aren’t at the highest risk.

Factors affecting how the sun can harm your skin include: your skin type, time of day of sun exposure, sunny vs. cloudy weather, your geographic location and altitude, and the sun’s reflection off the surrounding environment — sand, water and porch decks, for example.

Dr. Dhawan warns that the risk of sunburn is the greatest between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Just because it’s cloudy doesn’t mean you are protected as 90% of sunlight can penetrate cloudy or overcast days. Also, he notes, some light fabrics and wet clothes can transmit a large amount of sunlight to the skin, and hats and beach umbrellas don’t provide full protection from the sun. And, the ultraviolet rays (UVA) from the sun can penetrate glass and plastic.

As to which sunscreens provide the best protection, Dr. Dhawan recommends any brand with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, SPF>30, UVB and UBA protection. Makeup should include sunscreen, and he adds, “Make sure you use a maximum sunblock for your lips.”

Sprays are not as good as lotions or creams. Sunscreens should be applied within 15 minutes of going out into the sun and should be reapplied every two to three hours. Further, water-resistant screens only last 80 minutes in the water and must be reapplied.

Dr. Dhawan, who also is a clinical professor at Stanford University for medical residents, will provide additional detail on the types of skin cancer, prevention and treatment, and show illustrations of the various types of skin cancers during the seminar.

Dr. Dhawan adds, “Check your own skin regularly if you spend time in the sun, and make sure to have a doctor check you every year. But, the most important thing is to be aware of the damage the sun can do, even on mild days, and protect your skin every time you go out into the sun.”

For more details on this and other Health & Wellness seminars offered by Washington Hospital, see whhs.com/Events or call 800.963.7070. Past seminars can also be viewed on the Washington Hospital InHealth YouTube channel, YouTube.com/whhsInHealth.