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Summer is finally here!

Living in New England for years, my summers are spent outside enjoying the beautiful weather.  However, as much as it is enjoyable to be outside, the sun is not exactly our friend.  Having that “glow” from the sun makes us all look healthy; however, it can take a toll on our skin – dryness, aging, but especially skin cancer.  As a supporter of the Melanoma Foundation of New England we believe in their motto:  “Tanning Is Out and Your Skin Is In.”  Realistically, there is no safe way to tan because every time you tan, you damage your skin. In time, this speeds up the aging process and can increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.

It is important to understand that sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays — UVA rays and UVB rays. Having overexposure to either one or both can lead to serious skin damage that can eventually lead to skin cancer. Knowing the difference between the 2 is key:  UVA rays (or Aging rays) can age your skin prematurely which can cause age spots and wrinkles.  UVB rays (or Burning rays) are the primary cause of sunburn.

My team and I are very involved with Senator Jack Reed’s initiative to address the growing concern in skin cancer.  The goal of Senator Reed’s initiative is to educate and offer free screenings to individuals throughout our state in an effort to identify and treat cases of skin cancer at the earliest stages.  We have been working with Senator Reed for many years participating in a series of press conferences to promote the importance of using of sunscreen and understanding sunscreen labeling.  For more information on Senator Jack Reed’s initiative, visit his website:  www.reed.senate.gov.

Tanning beds made big news last year and the U.S. Surgeon General issued a call to action to prevent skin cancer. This was proceeded by the FDA changing labeling requirements from low risk to moderate risk on indoor tanning machines. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product.  There are many self-tanning products on the market so it is best to find one that works for you.

Lately, lack of Vitamin D is in the news often and unfortunately, our society believes being out in the sun is the answer. However, it is not. We can help our Vitamin D intake with a healthy diet and vitamins.

The topic of Sun Protection is a broad one and very important to everyone. The use of sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer regardless of your race, age, or even gender.  According to the American Society of Dermatology, one in 5 Americans can develop skin cancer.  This is a serious statistic.  Luckily, it is preventable through education and taking action.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, there are three important things to remember when selecting a sunscreen. 1) the label must have the words broad spectrum- to protect against both UVA and UVB rays, 2) be SPF 30 or higher, and 3) be water resistant- which is important when you are at the beach or outside exercising and perspiring.

I personally use a higher SPF rating.

There are hundreds of sunscreens on the market today, however, Consumer Reports recently tested and rated more than 60 sunscreens with a 30 or higher SPF and found that 28 of them didn’t meet the SPF claim on their label.  As some consumers favor “natural” sunscreens containing only titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, they are not always the best options.  In testing these “natural” sunscreens, the results were far worse than chemical-based sun protections.  For the most protection, Consumer Reports now claims that a chemical sunscreen with a 40+ SPF is the best way to go.  For more information, visit www.consumerreports.org.

It is important to reapply your sunscreen often (even if it’s water resistant!) and to wear a hat and protective clothing.  The American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeking shade between 10:00am and 2:00pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest. The sun emits harmful UV rays year-round. Even on cloudy days, up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful UV rays can penetrate your skin. These simple steps are key in protecting your skin from the sun’s powerful UVA and UVB rays.  More importantly, sunscreen should be water resistant and worn everyday if you plan to be outdoors – including in the winter months. Lastly, make sure you’re monitoring your skin regularly. If you notice anything changing, itching or bleeding on your skin, see a board-certified dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

Enjoy your summer and don’t forget to protect your skin with sunscreen.  In our office we have some products we have found helpful.  Let us know if we can help you.

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If you can, apply a water resistant with a high SPF sunblock 20 minutes before you go out in the sun. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00am and 2:00pm so it is best to get out early or later in the day to avoid those strong and damaging rays. And keep reapplying that sunscreen throughout the day in order to maintain effectiveness.

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Working up a sweat paddle boarding with the warm weather, tides and strong currents is common. The use of a titanium based sunscreen will decrease problems with chemicals that may irritate your eyes.

Safety first! Be sure to wear your ankle strap and a life jacket especially when boats and ships go by giving you waves to master.  The waves will add an awesome core workout.  Paddle boarding is fun and exciting…and you even may have a chance to go swimming.

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Don’t let the clouds fool you.  There are still rays coming through and they are intensified by the reflection from the water.