Ask the Doctor
Joseph Mahoney, MD
Pediatrician, Monticello Clinic
Question: Every summer there seems to be new information about sun protection. What is the latest news to help me and my family have fun in the warm weather while still being safe?
Answer: Recent studies show that melanoma will effect one out of 50 people, so it is important to learn how to reduce your risk. Suncreen is an important defense against sunburn but not skin cancer directly, so you should not rely soley on sunscreen for protection.
Between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. be smart about sun exposure by limiting your time outside, around water, and near sand when the sun is brightest. Before 10 a.m. and after 5 p.m., you can be outside without sunscreen for a short amount of time in order to get some vitamin D.
To truly protect against skin cancer, always try to wear wide brimmed hats, sunglasses and clothing with SPF 30 or more. This is your first line of defense against the sun. Also, there is a product called Sunguard. You can put Sunguard in the washing machine to add SPF 30 to your clothes as well.
It is important to also understand how to use sunscreen correctly. On an adult, you must use one ounce of SPF 30 or more about 30 minutes prior to going outside. This amount must be reapplied every two hours. For a child, you would apply half an ounce of sunscreen a half an hour before going outside, and reapply this amount every two hours.
As a side note, tanning beds are nothing but bad. They generate 10-15 times the amount of ultraviolet rays as the sun. People often have the false belief that they can be out longer in the sun if they have been in a tanning booth. However, what is really happening is you are increasing your risk for skin cancer. In fact, tanning booths were just placed in the highest cancer risk category by the World Health Organization, making their danger level equal to that of smoking.
Learn more information about protecting you and your family from sun damage here.