If you’re like millions of other people, you’re probably enjoying as much outdoor fun in the sun as you can with friends and family this summer. And you probably know the basics of Sun Safety and Skin Cancer Prevention:
- Avoiding direct sun exposure (if you can) from 10 am – 4pm, when UV rays are most harmful.
- Using SPF 30+ sunscreen on every inch of exposed skin, even on cloudy days.
- Keeping sunscreen, floppy hat, lightweight, loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt and pants ready in the car, so you’re prepared for any unexpected, prolonged sun exposure.
But what about situations, when you don’t realize some part of your skin is endangered?
Caution around windows
Though windows offer some protection from UVB rays (chief cause of sunburns), they typically don’t block UVA rays that can cause skin cancer. About 90 percent of all non-melanoma skin cancers are caused by sunlight – including what’s streaming through the windows of your house. It may look great, but don’t get stuck sitting (or napping!) in its direct path for long.
When it comes to the workplace, many newer office buildings have UV blocking windows to protect employees during the workday, but you still need to be careful. If you’re getting direct exposure through untreated windows for more than 15 minutes a day, it’s worth asking your company to explore getting protective shades or other window treatments.
Sun exposure through car windows is also a big problem. That’s why so many skin cancer growths appear on the tops of hands and outer parts of arms of drivers. While not a major risk if you only drive 10-15 minutes or so at a time, those with longer commutes and other long drives need to look, see and understand exactly what part of their bodies are exposed to sunlight – and protect them.
Fortunately, most modern windshields are UV-protected, so it’s your side and rear windows you need to worry about. If needed, consider getting them UV-protected too. Also, consider wearing long-sleeved shirt and pants for longer trips, and applying (and remembering to reapply every 90 minutes) SPF 30+ sunscreen to all exposed skin.
Water/Sand/Snow increase risk of sun damage
Don’t forget that when you’re at the beach or other waterfront, the water, sand and even the sea foam all reflect and intensify damaging UV rays. And because those reflected rays are often bouncing up at you from below, that can cause sunburn damage to unexpected places, including the underside of your chin and nose, and the backs of your ears.
Meanwhile, although you probably won’t be playing in the snow this summer, know that the same goes for snow, with UV rays reflected by snow almost twice as powerful as normal.
Comprehensively applied and repeatedly reapplied sunscreen, protective clothing and shade are your allies in battling these heightened sun exposure risks.
Protection Important on Cloudy Days Too
The shade of clouds certainly can feel good and cool you down on a hot summer day, but don’t be lulled complacency. In fact, 87-percent of UV rays still make their way through clouds, fog and mist. Bottom line? Same risks and sun protection necessities apply on overcast days as do on clear ones. All it takes is one awful, unexpected, cloudy-day sunburn to know that’s true!
Protect all your nooks and crannies
There are some areas on your body you may think don’t need sun protection, or that you overlook when applying sunscreen in too much of a rush. But unfortunately, they’re just as vulnerable to sun damage as the rest of your skin. So fully protect those hands, feet, backs of knees, necks, ears, and underarm areas!
To sum up, you may think it’s tiresome or overly cautious to keep up with all this, and some in your family (hmm, the kids, especially?) may think it’s a pain…but if you make it happen and stick with it, you’ll have the comfort of knowing you’re doing everything possible to prevent skin cancers for yourself and loved ones later in life, and you can continue enjoying the great outdoors in safety, and good health.
To learn more about skin cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis and treatment, please visit the Skin Cancer section of our Water’s Edge Dermatology website.