Take care of your skin this summer

By Satesh Bidaisee, Associate Professor of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, St. George's University
August 6, 2018

More than 3 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer every year.[1] That’s more than every other cancer combined.[2]

The culprit? Sunshine. The sun is the primary source of ultraviolet rays, which damage skin cells.[3] Roughly 90 percent[4] of skin cancer cases are caused by excessive exposure to UV rays.[5]

Even just a few burns can cause long-lasting harm. Getting just five sunburns during childhood can increase the risk of melanoma — one of the most dangerous skin cancers — by 80 percent.[6]

Summer is prime time to get sunburned. Thankfully, there are several precautions that people can take to stay protected from the sun this summer season.

First, apply sunscreen daily, even if it’s overcast. Though clouds might shield sunlight, UV rays can actually pass through clouds.[7]

Cover up with proper clothing to add additional protection. Long sleeves or wide brim hats, for instance, offer significant coverage from the sun’s rays.[8] Sunglasses with larger lenses can also better protect the eyes — and the sensitive skin surrounding them.[9]

To keep cool in the scorching heat, wear synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester.[10] It also helps to wear light-colored clothing, which absorbs fewer UV rays.[11]

People should also consult their physicians to learn if they’re particularly susceptible to sun damage. Some antibiotics that treat acne, for example, increase sensitivity to the sun.[12]

It’s important to note that everyone — regardless of skin color — is susceptible to the sun’s risks. So all people need to take precautions.

Moreover, it’s crucial to stay hydrated in the summer. Skin cells are primarily composed of water — and skin is particularly prone to water loss due to moisture exchange with the environment. So folks may have to drink more water than usual to protect their skin.

It’s critical that primary care doctors make patients aware of proper skin care — and advise them accordingly. Roughly 75 percent of graduates from St. George’s University enter primary care, so they’re on the front line in the fight against skin cancer.

This summer, go out and enjoy the outdoors. But remember to also safeguard your skin, and the summer will be all the more enjoyable.


[1] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/basal-and-squamous-cell-skin-cancer/about/key-statistics.html

[2] https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts#melanoma

[3] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/what-is-uv-radiation.html

[4] https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/skin-cancer-facts

[5] https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/sun-uv-and-cancer/how-the-sun-and-uv-cause-cancer

[6] https://www.skincancer.org/media-and-press/press-release-2015/sunburns

[7] https://www.cnn.com/2012/07/10/living/guide-to-sun-safety/index.html

[8] https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/clothing/protection

[9] https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/clothing/protection

[10] https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/clothing/protection

[11] https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/clothing/protection

[12] https://www.verywellhealth.com/which-acne-medications-cause-sun-sensitivity-15652

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