A Message from the President — Fall 2013

As the end of summer vacation nears and most of us return to our regular daily routines, it’s easy to think that the need for sun protection is coming to an end as well. With our children back in school from 8 am – 3 pm and many of us back in our offices, we can be lulled into a false sense of security.

However, the greatest part of our lifetime sun exposure occurs in brief intervals year-round — walking the dog, for example, or from the train to the office. The ultraviolet damage from these small, incidental daily exposures adds up over time and can lead to premature skin aging and skin cancer. Even in school, children may be out for extended periods for recess, gym class, or other sports activities, mostly in the middle of the day when the sun is most intense. So it’s crucial to remember that the need for preventive measures—sunscreen, hats, UV-blocking sunglasses, and protective clothing—continues after the first school bell rings. Slip some of these items into your child’s backpack, along with a note asking teachers to remind kids to use the items daily.

Unfortunately, many schools forbid sunscreen use without a doctor’s note, considering it an over-the-counter medication. This could change soon; the American Medical Association (AMA) just came out in support of eliminating this sunscreen ban. In the meantime, discuss the situation with your school.

Just as kids may feel sun-protected by the walls of their school, you may feel sun-safe at work, at home, and in your car. But the truth is, the side and rear windows in your car allow more than 60 percent of UVA rays to pass right through. The same is true of your home or office windows. UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays and play a major part in skin aging and wrinkling as well as skin cancer.

Use the same sun-protective measures when sitting by a window that you encourage your children to practice at school. Too few of us do this: in a recent study, only 27 percent of people surveyed reported using sunscreen in the car, believing they were fully sun-protected by the windows. Another option in cars: special window film that screens out almost 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays.

Remember, as you settle back into your post-summer everyday life, don’t let sun protection be forgotten! Practicing sun safety is a lifelong and year-round must.

Perry Robins, MD

Published on September 18, 2013