Fun in the sun while staying safe

29 Jul 2009 | Marine Cpl. Jessica L. Martinez

When summer hits most people enjoy soaking up the sun, barbecues and being around the water, but with summer also comes heat and the sun’s harsh rays.

To protect your skin from the dangerous ultraviolet rays, there are a few things to remember.

It’s important to always use sunscreen when going out in the sun to prevent skin from burning and getting skin cancers. The sun gives off ultraviolet radiation, which can be damaging to skin and even cause skin cancer.

“Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S.,” as stated by the Skin Cancer Foundation Web site. “More than one million skin cancers are diagnosed each year, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.”

There are many different types of skin cancer, but the most common are Basal cell carcinoma and Squamous cell carcinoma, as stated by the Web site. There are more than a million cases of BCC diagnosed each year and although it is rarely fatal, it can be severely disfiguring. With SCC, there are more than 250,000 cases each year, ending in almost 2,500 deaths.

“UV radiation decreases one’s immune system, affecting the ability to fight off infection and cancers,” said Lt. Cmdr. Charlene Kakimoto, dermatologist with Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune. “UV has been proven to directly induce changes in DNA, ultimately leading to skin cancer.  All it takes is one bad sunburn or little bits of sun exposure over the course of several years, to catch up with you 20 years later and produce a skin cancer.  Moreover, UV leads to oxidative free radical formation, which leads to skin aging in the form of wrinkles and red and brown spots.”

Using sunscreens with sun protective factor 30 or higher is a great way to protect your skin, as well as avoiding sun exposure during the peak hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wearing hats and sunglasses are also great protective measures to take.

Although the sun can be harmful to your skin, it does help give our bodies vitamin D, which is very important for strong bones and a healthy immune system.

“UV induces the creation of one form of vitamin D in the skin,” said Kakimoto. “However, it is recommended that vitamin D be obtained through healthier measures than sun exposure. A healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D, foods fortified with vitamin D, or vitamin D supplements are safer ways to maintain vitamin levels.”

The sun also helps with getting that nice tan, but there are safer ways to achieve that glow, as well.

“The sun may produce a tan, which may be temporarily pleasing cosmetically, but a safer way of obtaining a glowing complexion is through a balanced diet, exercise, plenty of water and sleep, and avoiding tobacco products,” said Kakimoto. “Furthermore, there are several self-tanners, spray-on tans and bronzers on the market.”

Direct exposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer over time as well as aging of the skin, but you can still get UV exposure when sitting indoors next to a window, while sitting in the shade or during a cloudy day. Although protecting yourself from the sun isn’t the only thing to worry about.

It’s also important to drink plenty of water when you are out and about the heat. Dehydration is the most common heat-related illness, and with summer comes lots of fun activities, so it is good to drink fluids before you are physically active and then frequently while you are out in the heat. Never rely on thirst to let you know when to drink something, because by then you are already dehydrated.

For more information on keeping your skin safe in the sun visit the following Web site,