Suncreen: Know your numbers

There are several different types of ultraviolet radiation. Two kinds are associated with health risks: ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB). UVA has been linked to skin aging (wrinkling) and skin cancer. UVB has been known to cause sunburn, skin aging and skin cancer. Since ultraviolet radiation can be neither seen nor felt, people are usually not aware of sun damage until long after exposure, and when the signs of sun damage manifest themselves. UVA and UVB can be at high levels regardless of the temperature or weather. This means that sunburns and skin aging can occur even on cool, cloudy days. Experts think that there are peak ultraviolet radiation levels between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm each day.

When skin is exposed to UVA and UVB rays, it produces a brown pigment called melanin (which appears as a tan). If the skin goes unprotected, sunburns can happen. The Canadian Dermatology Association thinks that unprotected skin can become damaged after 30 minutes in the sun. Mild sunburns redden the skin; they appear up to 24 hours after sun exposure and fade within 3-5 days. Serious sunburns can result in a painful blistering and peeling of the skin. The damage from sunburns does not disappear, but rather builds up through the years.

Sun protection factor (SPF) refers to the ability of the sunscreen or sunblock product to protect the skin from ultraviolet rays for a certain length of time. SPF gives people an idea of how much protection they're actually getting by comparison with the amount of time it takes for unprotected skin to burn.

In the best-case scenario, if it normally takes 10 minutes for skin to burn, an SPF of 15 would protect the person for fifteen times longer (two and a half hours), assuming that the sunscreen is reapplied frequently (which is not usually the case). For best results, sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours or after swimming or sweating. Most people do not reapply sunscreen regularly, which means most people are not getting the maximal protection from their sunscreen!

A higher SPF number means that the sunscreen protects the skin for a longer period of time. For example, SPF 60 sunscreen will protect the skin four times as long as SPF 15 sunscreen, or 60 times as long as no sunscreen at all.

The Canadian Dermatology Association recommends using a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. People who have different needs may require a higher SPF. The sunscreen should also be broad-spectrum (meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB). Many sunscreens are endorsed by the Canadian Dermatology Association; look for their logo on the packaging. Ask your pharmacist to help you choose a good sunscreen for you.

Sunscreen should be applied liberally on dry skin, about 15-30 minutes before going out into the sun. Most people do not apply enough sunscreen, which again means that they are not getting maximal protection! Here are some general guidelines on how much to use:

  • The entire body can be covered with about 30 mL (a full shot glass) of sunscreen. A bottle containing 120 mL (4 ounces) should last four complete applications.
  • The head and neck can be covered with just over a half teaspoon of sunscreen.
  • The arms and legs can be covered with one teaspoon each of sunscreen.
  • The chest, stomach area and back can be covered with 3 teaspoons of sunscreen.

Don't forget the upper back, lips, tips of the ears, nose, and neck. These are commonly-missed areas where most cancers occur. Another thing to keep in mind is that avoiding direct sunlight, wearing clothing and hats to cover up, and putting on sunglasses will all protect you from the sun. Sunscreen should be used in addition to, and not instead of, these basics.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Sun-Safe-Skin

Sun smarts for kids

Children who have been out in the sun a lot and have had serious sunburns (painful, blistering skin) will be at greater risk for skin cancer as adults. Experts think that as much as 60% of a person's lifetime ultraviolet radiation exposure happens in his or her first 18 years. This fact may sound scary, but in fact, all is not lost. If parents help their children protect themselves from the sun, some of the damage can be reversed or delayed. Simple things you can do include the following:

  • Be shade seekers. Keep babies under one year of age out of direct sunlight. Invest in a covered stroller or sun umbrella, and keep your little ones cool, happy and protected. Minimize sun exposure for all young children as much as possible. Stay away from the sun in the middle of the day (between 10 am and 4 pm).
  • Cover up. Make sure children are wearing all the right gear - loose-fitting clothing (long-sleeved shirts and long pants if possible) made of tightly-woven fabrics such as polyester-cotton blends. Don't forget the wide-brimmed hat and the sunglasses.
  • Reapply, reapply, reapply. Be vigilant and teach children to reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after swimming. You may want to consider using a sunscreen with a higher SPF, but remember that you will still need to reapply frequently. Sunscreen is not recommended for children under 6 months of age.
  • Set a good example. Talk to your children about sun safety, and show them examples of how you protect your skin from the sun. Talk to schools and daycares to ensure that they are also sun safe.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Sun-Safe-Skin

Find your phototype

Different people are at different risk for sun damage. The term "sun capital" refers to all of the skin's natural defenses against sun damage, which are predetermined in childhood. Sun capital is non-renewable quality and unique to each individual.

The skin's natural defenses are determined by personal characteristics such as skin tone, eye colour and hair colour. In general, people with fair skin, eyes and hair are more likely to react to the effects of the sun. Experts think that there four major phototypes (skin types that respond differently to the sun):

  • Phototype 1 people are usually pale or fair-skinned. They may have red hair, freckles all over their body, and green eyes. Phototype 1 people always get sunburns very easily.
  • Phototype 2 people may have slightly darker complexions. They usually have blonde hair, freckles on the face or hands, and blue eyes. Phototype 2 people often get sunburns, but less frequently than those with Phototype 1.
  • Phototype 3 people can have light brown skin, brown hair, few freckles, and grey eyes. They rarely get sunburns.
  • Phototype 4 people have darker brown skin, black hair, no freckles, and brown eyes. They almost never get sunburns.

While you can't change your phototype, you can take steps to help minimize sun damage. There is enough ultraviolet radiation in sunlight to damage your skin and eyes, even when the ozone layer is normal. With the gradual thinning of the ozone layer caused by industrial substances such as chlorofluorocarbons, people are now at greater risk for sun damage. Even more worrisome is that most people are not taking the proper precautions. In a recent survey, although 80% of Canadians knew when and how they should protect themselves from the sun, only 50% reported that they actually did so.

Certain medications can make people more sensitive to the sun. For example, thiazide water pills, tetracycline antibiotics, birth control pills and some acne medications can cause photosensitivity reactions. Ask your pharmacist or doctor whether you are taking any medications that are making you sun-sensitive.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Sun-Safe-Skin

Sun lovers beware

Skin cancer is becoming an increasingly important health concern. Most skin cancers occur in the head and neck areas. There are usually warning signs that can be recognized as sun damage.

The most serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is usually first detected as a change in existing moles on the skin. Usually, moles are flat round or oval spots on the skin. However, they may change over time. An easy way to remember the basics of malignant melanoma is to recite the beginning of the alphabet:

  • A stands for Asymmetry. This means that one half of the mole is unlike the other half.
  • B stands for Border. Moles with irregular or wavy borders or borders that aren't very clear cut may be warning signs.
  • C stands for Colour. This describes moles that are multi-coloured (shades of brown, black and sometimes even white or red).
  • D stands for Diameter. A mole that is larger than 6 millimetres across its widest part (approximately the width of a pencil eraser) may be a problem.
  • E stands for Evidence of Change. Any changes in the look of a mole should be reported.

Other types of skin cancer to be on the lookout for are basal cell and squamous cell cancers. Basal cell skin cancer usually appears as a red, black or skin-coloured bump on the skin. The bump often has a pearly border and can develop into a sore. Squamous cell skin cancers usually appear as bumps that are red and sometimes scaly with a crusted sore.

It's important to check skin regularly, at least every month. If changes to moles or any new skin growths are noticed, they should be discussed with a doctor as soon as possible. The key to treatment of skin cancer is timing - the earlier, the better.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2021. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/Sun-Safe-Skin