Warm weather is here, that means more time outside.
As we look forward to summer fun, we must also be mindful of summer sun. The sun’s rays (UVA and UVB) cause damage to the skin over time which can cause early wrinkles and skin cancer.  Around one in five people will develop a skin cancer in their lifetime.
By following a few simple tips, you can keep your family safe while enjoying the summer sun.
First, it is important to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun. The sun’s rays are the strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Avoiding direct sun exposure during these times will reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Next, it is important to wear protective clothing or hats when you are in the sun. A wide-brimmed hat will help protect your face, neck, and ears from the sun. A hat is very important because the most common spots for a skin cancer to occur are the face, neck and ears.  If you are not able to wear protective gear, the next best option is sun block.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, when choosing a sun block, you should look for three key things on the label. It should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. It should be water resistant. And, it should say broad spectrum, which means it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Sun block should be applied before sun exposure, and it should be reapplied after two to three hours of sun exposure or after sweating or swimming.
Certain people are more prone to skin cancer, and need to be especially cautious with sun exposure. For example, individuals with fair skin and light or red hair are more susceptible to sun damage. People with light colored eyes are at more risk as well. If your skin burns easily, and you have suffered many sun burns in the past, your risk of skin cancer goes up.
It is important to regularly check your skin. If you find new spots, or you have freckles or moles that have changed in size, shape or color, notify your physician. Your family doctor or a dermatologist can perform a skin check to make sure that you don’t have any pre-cancerous or cancerous spots on your skin.
The good news is that most skin cancer is treatable and does not spread if it is caught early.
Now get out there and have fun in the sun.
Dr. Heather Powell is employed with the Family Medicine Clinic at NARMC Network.


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