There’s nothing like being in the water on a hot day. It’s cool, it’s fun, kids love it. And swimming is great exercise.
But exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays increases the risk of skin cancer. And those rays reflect off of water, sand and concrete or tiled deck surfaces, so thorough sun protection is especially important at the beach or a pool.
The Skin Cancer Foundation offers the following tips to help everyone have fun while staying sun-safe:
- Slather on the sunscreen. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. To help avoid missing spots, apply sunscreen to your entire body before putting on your bathing suit. Make sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating to all exposed areas of the skin not covered by fabric.
- Practice sunscreen application beforehand. Teach children to apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons, or about the size of a golf ball) of sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outside. Remind them to cover easily missed areas such as the back of the neck and tops of the ears.
- Cover up. Look for high-UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) swim shirts or rash guards for kids and adults, and choose bathing suits that cover more skin, like one-piece suits and long trunks. For optimal protection when out of the water, look for tightly woven or knit, dark- or bright- colored fabrics, which offer the best protection. Don’t forget wide-brimmed hats and wraparound, UV-blocking sunglasses. When shopping for UPF products, look for The Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.
- Don’t get burned. Your risk of developing melanoma doubles if you’ve ever had five or more sunburns.
- Avoid tanning. There is no such thing as a safe tan, because tanning itself is caused by DNA damage to the skin. In addition to increasing skin cancer risk, tanning also leads to premature skin aging, including wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots.
- Remind kids to seek the shade. Advise kids to play in shaded areas or under beach umbrellas to limit UV exposure. Consider going to the beach or pool early or late in the day, when the sun’s rays aren’t as intense.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Clothing and shade are best for infants’ sensitive skin, which is especially vulnerable to sun damage. Start using sunscreen on babies at the age of 6 months, in addition to protective hats and clothing.
Published on August 9, 2016.