“While the sun makes you feel good, people perceive a tan as healthy when it’s actually dangerous,” said Jeffrey Ellis, MD, director of dermatological surgery at North Shore University Hospital and LIJ Medical Center. “Medically, we know that UV light is a known carcinogen but people are going out and seeking it.”
Repeated exposure to the sun’s UV rays damages DNA in the skin. If the body can’t repair this damage, skin cancer can develop.
Current estimates are that skin cancer will affect one in five Americans in their lifetime and its incidence is on the rise. More than 1.2 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the United States, and one person dies of melanoma – the deadliest form of skin cancer – every hour. Fortunately, if detected early, melanoma has a 95 percent cure rate, but prevention is the best alternative.
“It’s important that people be respectful of the sun when its rays are strongest and to properly protect your skin,” said Dr. Ellis. “Also, parents must be vigilant in safeguarding their children from the sun because early DNA damage in babies and young children can develop into something more ominous later in life.”
According to Dr. Ellis, one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chance of developing melanoma as an adult. “Minimizing exposure to ultraviolet light from the sun and indoor tanning salons is the best way to lower your risk for all skin cancers,” he said.
Here are some key strategies to keep you sun safe this summer:
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat and use UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; seek shade whenever possible.
- Cover up with long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 whenever you spend time outdoors. (Your sunscreen should block both ultraviolet B (UBV) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays.
- Everyone over the age of six months should use sunscreen daily year-round in any weather. (Infants should be kept out of the sun or protected with clothing and an umbrella or stroller hood.)
- Never seek a tan: There’s no such thing as a healthy tan.
For more information, contact the Division of Dermatology at (516) 708-2530.