Doctors urging Utahns to protect skin and avoid sunburns during hot summer months

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As record-breaking temperatures continue to climb in Utah, Intermountain Healthcare experts are reminding people to take care of their skin using sunscreen, sunblock, and wearing protective clothing.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer. One in five people will develop skin cancer at some point in their life.

Measured against other states, Utah has the highest incidents of melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Experts say this is due to Utah’s higher elevation and easy access to outdoor activities, which increases the risk for all Utahns, including people of color.

Dermatologists note sunscreen or sunblock isn’t just for going to the beach or hiking in the wilderness but anytime you’re out in the sun. Doctors say sun damage now, can lead to serious problems down the road.

“Even though you may heal from a sunburn and be fine a week later it can lead to melanoma and other skin cancers years later,” said Dr. Chris English, a dermatologist with Intermountain Healthcare. “That’s why it’s vital to make protective measures a part of your daily routine.”

  • To reduce the risk of skin cancer doctors suggests the following:
    • Use sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF (sun protective factor), at least 15 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours and after swimming. Sunscreen provides a chemical defense. When applied appropriately it penetrates the skin and absorbs the ultraviolet (UV) rays before they can damage the skin.
    • As an even better option, use sunblock. Sunblock offers more protection because it sits on top of the skin. It reflects sunlight off the skin, blocking both harmful UVB and UVA rays. Sunblock typically includes zinc oxide or titanium oxide and is used to remain white on the skin after applying, but most modern sunblock goes on clear.
    • Use sun protective clothing with a high UPF (ultra-violet protection factor) rating. Clothes with a 50+ UPF rating can block out more than 98 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. Regular clothing like a cotton shirt only has a 7 UPF rating when dry and a 3 UPF rating when wet.
    • Sun protective clothing is also great because you don’t have to keep reapplying sunscreen to the areas they cover, just don’t forget to apply sunblock or sunscreen to the areas of the body exposed. Sun protective clothing is also a good option for people who may have allergies to certain types of sunscreens or sensitive skin.
    • Since the primary risk factor for melanoma is exposure to UV radiation, learning how you can protect yourself from UV radiation can help you reduce your risk of melanoma.
  • Other Prevention Tips
    • Seek the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
    • Establish an easy, daily sun protection regimen that you and your children follow.
    • Do not let your skin burn. On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns. It’s important to take the time and effort to prevent sunburns in the first place.

Check your skin, Dr. English says it’s important for people to check themselves for changes to moles, bumps, or patches on their skin. These can be the early signs of skin cancer and people should see a dermatologist to further diagnose the issue.

Intermountain Healthcare encourages total body screenings to help detect skin cancer early. For more information call, 877-850-7546 or click here for details on how early detection can save lives.

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