Skin Protection Tips for Vacationers Headed South

Feb. 4, 2009

If you’re headed south for the upcoming school break, don’t forget to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging rays during your vacation.

Mary Gail Mercurio, M.D., a dermatologist who sees many skin cancers at the University of Rochester Medical Center’s James P. Wilmot Cancer Center, says too many people will suffer skin damage and sun burns because the lure of the sun is too great. She offers the following tips:

·        Use sunscreen -- The best ones have SPF of 30 or higher and include protection from UVB and UVA ultraviolet radiation. Don’t forget to put it on the back of your neck, top of your ears and feet, and scalp if you’ve lost some hair. Apply sunscreen 15 to 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two to three hours while outdoors.

·        Wear a hat and protective clothing – A hat with a four-inch brim will protect more than 95 percent of your head, face and neck. Light-weight clothes that cover your arms and legs offer good protection.

·        Stay out of the sun when it’s most intense, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Schedule outdoor activities for early morning or late afternoon to avoid the damaging rays.

·        Avoid tanning parlors – a base tan doesn’t provide any protection from sun damage.

·        Sun damage is cumulative and includes exposures such as walking the dog, mowing the lawn and a trip to the store.

 Skin cancers are the most common cancer in the United States, with a million new diagnoses each year. About half of all people who live to age 65 will have skin cancer at least once. Although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people with fair skin that freckles easily, often those with red or blond hair and blue or light-colored eyes.