by DR. JOY JACKSON
Summer has arrived, bringing school breaks, hot weather, and the sun’s rays beating down on us. UV rays from the sun cause skin damage and it can lead to skin cancer. The Department of Health in Polk County would like to encourage you to practice sun-safe behaviors for yourself and for your family, not just during the summer, but all year round.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and melanoma is a type of skin cancer that causes the majority of skin cancer-related deaths. According to the CDC, Polk County’s rate of melanoma (31.49%) is among the highest among Florida counties within a 10-year period.
So how do we combat melanoma? The key is being proactive and preventing skin damage before it happens. One of the best ways to prevent melanoma is by wearing sunscreen. However, data shows as of 2021, middle school students and high students in Florida wore sunscreen at rates of 13.1 and 11.8, respectively. Instilling the practice of wearing sunscreen in young people is essential to preventing melanoma in adults.
When choosing a sunscreen, pick a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher that filters out both UVA and UVB rays. Since UV rays can cause skin damage on cloudy days, sunny days, and at any time of the year, it’s vital to wear sunscreen whenever you go outside. If you spend your time near windows at home, you should still wear sunscreen. UV rays can penetrate windows to affect your skin.
Some best practices for wearing sunscreen include applying sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and wearing a thick layer in order to cover all areas of the skin that might see the sun. Sunscreen needs to be reapplied every two hours, and more frequently if swimming or sweating.
Sunscreen is recommended for everyone except for infants. A medical provider should be consulted before applying sunscreen to infants younger than 6 months.
Ultimately, wearing sunscreen is most successful when combined with other protective methods. That includes spending less time in the sun during peak intensity (between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.), wearing a hat, wearing sunglasses, wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, and spending time in the shade.
By educating young people early about the importance of sunscreen use and other sun safe behaviors, all of us have the power to reduce rates of melanoma in future generations. You have the power to start today with your own family.
About the Author: Dr. Joy Jackson, an internal medicine physician, serves the community as director of the Florida Department of Health in Polk County (DOH-Polk). For more information about DOH-Polk, visit mypolkhealth.org. Follow DOH-Polk on Twitter at twitter.com/FLHealthPolk.