It’s officially Fall in the desert and the cooler weather means only one thing – Arizonans are heading outside in droves to enjoy the great outdoors
But whether we are walking, hiking, biking or just sitting on the patio enjoying the fresh air, be sure not to let your sun safety guard down. There may be a cool breeze in the air, but the sun’s damaging UV rays are still shining down.
In fact, this year alone, anestimated 10,130 people will die of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Despite the years of sun safety education campaigns, as an internal medicine doctor at Golden Apple Medicine and on the medical staff at St. Luke’s Medical Center, it’s surprising to realize that Arizonans think nice weather creates less risk.
While most people know the first step to preventing skin cancer is sunscreen (used in the same quantity as during the hottest months), what many don’t realize is that the proper way to protect skin changes with age and lifestyle. With that said, it’s important to remember the following tips:
Age matters: Sun safety isn’t a one-size-fits-all proposition. The type of sunscreen that should be used varies with age. Formulas specially designed for babies and children help prevent irritation to delicate skin, but may not be strong enough to protect older users. On the other end of the spectrum, as people age, skin loses some of its natural protective qualities. Combine that with medications commonly prescribed for older patients, and the skin of older adults becomes especially sensitive to sun damage.
It’s never too late: Many people assume that if they didn’t care for their skin in their younger years, there is no point in taking care of it now as the damage is done. Not so. Starting to protect skin in middle age, or even later, is better than never at all. While reversing previous damage may not be possible, people can definitely prevent additional exposure from the sun’s harmful rays.
Fair isn’t always fair: The saying may suggest that blondes have more fun, but when it comes to sun safety, the fairest complexions are at the greatest risk for sun damage – regardless of hair color. People with light hair, skin and eyes should make sure to take extra precautions, from applying the right type of sunscreen to wearing hats and UV-filter sunglasses.
Lifestyle: Be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours, or even sooner if swimming or undertaking robust physical activity. Sweat often carries away that protective layer sooner.
Inventory:People should make sure to see a professional at least once a year, more if they’re fair, to get a skin assessment. The best way to treat melanoma and other skin cancers is through early detection. Physicians can typically see problem spots before they reach a critical point.
Written by: Samuel Figueroa, M.D.
Samuel Figueroa, M.D. is an internal medicine doctor at Golden Apple Medicine and on the medical staff at St. Luke’s Medical Center. He specializes in the treatment of sun-damaged skin.