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Sun Safety

Dr. Heather Kiraly OrkwisBy: Heather Orkwis, DO, FAOCD
Midwest Center for Dermatology
Shelby Twp. & Clinton Twp.

Summer has arrived in Michigan! Along with enjoying the warmer weather and sunny skies, it’s important to be smart about our time in the sun. Skin cancer is currently the most common type of cancer in the United States, affecting more than 2 million Americans annually. Nearly 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. As a preventive measure, all adults should have a skin cancer screening, annually, by a board-certified Dermatologist. Skin cancer screenings are needed more frequently if you have a history of melanoma, basal cell, or squamous cell carcinomas.

Daily use of sunscreen has proven to reduce the risk of all skin cancers, especially melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen should be a daily habit, not just when it’s bright and sunny outside. Yes, this means applying sunscreen to exposed skin 365 days of the year! UV radiation comes through even on gray, cloudy days and leads to additive damage, increasing the risk for skin cancer.

What sunscreen should I be using?

Look for a broad-spectrum product, covering both UVA and UVB rays with minimum SPF 30. This can be found on the front label of the sunscreen product.

What is the difference between physical blockers
and chemical sunscreens?

There are only 2 types of physical blockers: zinc oxide and titanium oxide. There are nearly 30 types of chemical sunscreens. The physical blockers provide an immediate layer of protection between your skin and the sun, reflecting the UV rays. Chemical sunscreens (i.e.) avobenzone, oxybenzone) provide a barrier 15-20 minutes after application and absorb UV radiation, scattering it across the surface of skin. The zinc and titanium based SPF products are preferred and are best especially for sensitive skin types.

How often should I apply?

Every morning to your face, ears, neck and any other exposed areas, year round. Reapplication should be done every 2 hours while outdoors. The products break down, especially in water or during sweating, therefore reapplication is very important.

What is the difference between waterproof
vs. water-resistant?

The terms ‘waterproof’ and ‘sweat-resistant’ are no longer permitted on sunscreen labeling. ‘Water-resistant’ implies that the product lasts through a defined amount of time as indicated on the label.

How much SPF product should I use? For application to your face, a nickel size amount of product is appropriate. For the rest of your body, 1-2 ounces, or the size of a shot glass should be used from the neck down.

Please refer to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) free educational resources for more information: SpotSkinCancer.org

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