By Christine Peets
I’m not sure when it started, but with every weather report now, we are given the UV Index, and told whether it is low, medium or high. If it’s high, (8 or higher) we are reminded to put on sunscreen. I have another reminder— a scar of my left hand about the size of my thumb. It’s the spot where I had a carcinoma—yes, skin cancer. The scar is barely noticeable now, but I know it’s there. It reminds me to be diligent with sun protection as a way of preventing skin cancer from coming back. (Once you’ve had skin cancer, you have an increased chance of it returning.)
According to the Canadian Dermatology Association, we need to pay more attention to the various types of skin cancer, and know how to prevent them. Protecting ourselves from overexposure to the sun is a pretty simple way to do that.
In a recent “Zoomer Report” Libby Znaimer gave some interesting information about sunscreens. : http://www.classical963fm.com/category/shows/zoomer-report/ Basically, Znaimer reported, look for broad spectrum protection: If the label doesn’t say it provides “broad spectrum” protection against UVB and UVA rays, don’t buy it. Sunscreens must protect against both in order to help prevent skin cancer. Also, look for an SPF of at least 15. The “sun protection factor” in sunscreens measures how long it takes to produce a burn on protected skin relative to unprotected skin. Dermatologists recommend people choose at least SPF 15, although many argue it’s better to start with SPF 30. (I use sunscreen with an SPF 55 or 60.) There is still a lot of confusion about the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) numbers, but this http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=46376 has some good information.
Znaimer reported that the Food and Drug Administration in the US says that there is no evidence to support the advertising claims that sunscreen is waterproof, so it should be re-applied after swimming. In fact, it should be re-applied every couple of hours if you’re out in the sun all day. She concluded her report with the following advice, “Finally, one of the biggest sunscreen mistakes people make is not applying enough. The FDA says you need enough to fill a shot glass: that’s one ounce, to adequately cover exposed body parts. And remember, those harmful rays penetrate glass, so you need to wear the sunscreen while driving.”
With our long, often dull winters, we need to soak up that sun to get the Vitamin D benefits so we should have no intention of covering up all the time, or staying in the shade. Get out and enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. Before you head out though take a few minutes to do a “slop, slap, slip” routine. Slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat and slip on the shades. If I forget to do any of this, I have something there to remind me.
Christine Peets is a freelance writer based in Napanee, Ontario, and the owner of Captions Communications. Learn more about her work on her website Visit her blog “With Humour and Hope—The Only Way to Live” for other writing.
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