The recent change in weather has made me think of sunscreen. I know, weíre supposed to wear it every day -- rain or shine, hot or cold. We can still get sunburned in the middle of winter or on a dreary day. For me, honestly, thatís when Iím more likely to get one.
Iím not one for heat, so I spend more of my time outside on cooler days. For the rest of you normal folk out there, though, this time of year is probably when you try to remember to slather some of the good stuff on exposed skin before heading out the door.
If youíre like me, most days you only wear the SPF in your moisturizer and/or makeup. However, we know this isnít nearly enough. In fact, in order for the SPF in most moisturizers or facial cosmetics to work, you actually have to use much more than you do on a daily basis. But what are the actual current recommendations?
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) recommends SPF of at least 30, which is water resistant and protects against both UVA (aging rays) and UVB (burning rays). Next, it should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside and at least every two hours while outside. The biggest problem for me, and probably for others, is the correct amount we should use.
While we know to cover all exposed skin with a layer of sunscreen, how much do we use? For starters, fill a shot glass with sunscreen -- thatís how much (at a minimum) you should be using when wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and heading outdoors.
While both UVA and UVB rays can cause cancer due to the damage to the skin over time, UVA rays are considered the cancer-causing rays. UVA rays age the skin by penetrating the dermal layer and suppress the immune system -- yes, your immune system! UVB rays cause sunburns, thereby damaging the superficial layer of skin. They can cause permanent damage as well, though are less likely to cause skin cancer.1
What does this all mean for us oncology nurses? Live what we preach: Practice proper sun protection and help instruct our patients properly as well. Help our patients and their families prevent yet another type of cancer. And donít forget about the lips -- yep, they need protection, too!
- coola's sun science lesson