When most people think of sun exposure, they think of tropical vacations or summertime fun in the sun. A better and safer way to think about sun exposure is not in terms of the activity we are doing or the time of the year but in terms of the kind of sun exposure – intense and incidental.
Intense Sun Exposure
Intense sun exposure is a pattern of concentrated exposure to UV rays that damage the skin. Intense sun exposure can be both a consistent exposure to the sun from being in the sun all day as well as an intermittent exposure to the sun from being in the sun from time to time throughout the day. For example, after spending months indoors, you might receive several days of intense exposure to the sun over a Christmas time vacation to Hawaii. Important to note, if you had one intense, blistering sunburn in childhood or just five sunburns at any age, you have doubled your chances of getting melanoma. Intense sun exposure facts to be concerned by that are cited by the Skin Cancer Foundation include:
- More than 70,000 cases of melanomas are diagnosed each year in the United States.
- More than 8,000 deaths are caused by melanomas each year in the United States.
- Intense sun exposure causes basil cell carcinoma, the most common form of skin cancer, in nearly 3,000,000 people each year in the United States.
Incidental Sun Exposure
Incidental sun exposure is the exposure to the sun that you are not even aware of. Incidental sun exposure accumulates over your lifetime from every day activities in which you are in the sun. Such activities include walking your dog, sitting at a bus stop, and even walking to and from your car. Long term incidental sun exposure causes squamous cell carcinoma which is the second most popular type of skin cancer. Incidental sun exposure also leads to basal cell carcinoma which occurs on the face, neck, ears, head, shoulders, and back. Though basal cell carcinoma is typically not fatal, it can be disfiguring if not treated. Incidental sun exposure facts to be concerned by that are cited by the Skin Cancer Foundation include:
- More than 700,000 cases of squamous cell carcinoma are diagnosed each year in the United States.
- More than 2,500 deaths are caused by squamous cell carcinoma each year in the United States.
Sun Exposure Protection Tips for both Intense and Incidental
People of all skin colors, types and ages, especially new born babies and children, are at risk from intense and incidental sun exposure. Helpful tips for sun protection include:
- Between the hours of 10am and 4pm, seek the shade.
- Don’t allow your skin to burn.
- Don’t go to tanning booths.
- Cover your head with high quality UPF 50+ broad-brimmed hats.
- Cover bare arms with high quality UPF 50+ protect arm sleeves.
- Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen to any exposed areas of your face, earns, nose, and neck.
- Do not apply sunscreen on newborns, keep them out of the sun.
- For babies over 6 months old, sunscreens can be applied.
- Reapply sunscreens every two hours.
- Regularly examine your skin from head to toe.
- See your dermatologist once a year for a professional skin examination and skin health assessment.