May is Melanoma Awareness Month, so we are going to feature weekly sets of sun protection secrets from Mona Gohara, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. Get set to up your sun smarts and stay safe all summer!
Day 8: Know your natural SPF. The melanin level in most fair skinned individuals provides a “built-in” SPF of 3.4, while those with brown skin have an SPF of 13.4. Although Mother Nature does provide a nice buffer, official recommendations are daily application of SPF 30 or higher-and with intensive sun exposure reapplying 1-2 ounces (the size of a ping-pong ball) every 2 hours for optimal use. Think beyond the beach or pool, prolonged summer sun exposure can happen at barbeques, outdoor concerts, trips to the zoo or amusement parks with the family and sporting events.
Day 9: Brown is beautiful. No one can dispute the aesthetic appeal of sun-kissed skin. Unfortunately, since 90 percent of skin cancers are caused by ultraviolet light, excessive sun represents a forbidden fruit to most health conscious individuals. The solution? Tan in a can. Sunless tanners have bridged the gap between dazzling and dangerous. Remember to exfoliate the entire body prior to applying in order to avoid streaks.
Day 10: The “D”lemma. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that humans get via diet and sunlight. This vitamin is found naturally in cod liver oil, liver, eggs, butter and fatty fish. It can also be absorbed by drinking fortified milk/orange juice. We know that vitamin D is imperative for healthy bones, cancer prevention and protection against osteoporosis, cardiovascular and autoimmune disease. An ongoing study from the department of dermatology at Stanford University now shows that this super vitamin may also protect against melanoma, especially in women with a previous history of skin cancer. The dilemma? Because of genetic tendencies, trends towards skin cancer prevention and inadequate dietary intake, some people are deficient in this vitamin. That being said, supplements and a diet rich in vitamin D foods remain preferable to sun exposure when is comes to ensuring adequate levels.
Day 11: The forgotten land, your scalp. Often times the scalp gets burned because of an “Oops, I forgot to put sunscreen there” or “ I didn't want my hair to get greasy” maneuver. Ok, no more excuses. Skin cancers develop on the scalp commonly. Worse yet, tumors in this location are more likely to be aggressive and metastasize. Tip: To avoid excessive sheen, spray sunscreen on to the tips of your fingers and work into the hair, starting with the part.
Day 12: There is a formula to melanoma prevention. A recent study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showed that by applying sunscreen daily to the face, hands, arms and neck one could reduce melanoma risk by 50 percent. An easy fix to a potentially fatal problem. That being said, the fact remains that 35 percent of women separately surveyed admitted to NEVER wearing sunscreen. Scary, but true.
Day 13: Learn the labels. Sunscreen isles in drugstores can be confusing and overwhelming. Decode the sunscreen Rosetta stone with a few basic tenets. 1-SPF only refers to the amount of UVB protection a product supplies, make sure to look for a label that reads “broad spectrum" to ensure sufficient UVA coverage as well. Active ingredients such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, mexoryl or avobenzone, also guarantee that UVA will be blocked adequately. 2-Don’t let the numbers fool you. Nothing is truly 100 percent. SPF 15 blocks out 94% of the sun’s harmful rays, SPF 30 blocks out 97% and SPF 100 blocks out 99% of carcinogenic UVB rays. 3-Sunscreen is like a gym membership-its great in theory, but it only works if you use it (the right way!)
Day 14: Seek the shade or avoid the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when ultraviolet rays are the strongest. If you are exercising outdoors try to do it in the early morning or the evening. If prime sun hours are more convenient, scope out a big tree and do your squats in the shade!