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Tuesday, April 15, 2014 - Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine 365 days a year ─ not just during the summer

Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine 365 days a year ─ not just during the summer

By Jarrod P. Kaufman, M.D., F.A.C.S

After a long and dark winter, there is nothing more thrilling than to finally venture back outside and feel the warm sun on our skin. But as a surgeon who has treated many patients with skin cancer here in central New Jersey, spring is also a time to remind everyone that protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is important all year round ─ not just at the beach or the pool this summer. UV rays are sneaky because they can damage your skin even on cloudy, cool and hazy days. Surprisingly, while skin cancer is the most common form of cancer here in the U.S., only about 30 percent of us apply sunscreen every day before even minimal sun exposure. Don’t be the one in five Americans who is unexpectedly faced with this disease in your lifetime.

Sunscreen should be part of your daily routine

Just like brushing your teeth in the morning, applying sunscreen to all exposed areas of your body at least 30 minutes before you go outside ─ regardless of the weather forecast ─ is crucial. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers mean more protection.  Choose a brand that offers a “broad spectrum” sunscreen with at least SPF 30. Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another brand. Also, if you are in the sun during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., you will burn more quickly.

Reapplication is needed throughout the day

Research shows people don't apply a thick enough layer of sunscreen to get the full SPF benefits, so generously apply the cream or spray on your exposed skin. One application of sunscreen, particularly if you are outside, sweating or in water, wears off in just a few hours. The FDA recommends you reapply every two hours (even if you are using a waterproof or sweat-proof sunscreen). Also, circle the expiration date on all of the sunscreens you use. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

Cosmetics, lotions, hats and clothing

I have found the information regarding SPF coverage in beauty products is unpredictable at best. While creams, lotions and lip balms can add another layer of protection, don’t rely on them solely as your daily sun protection. Instead, apply your sunscreen first and then add these skin treatments for an added level of protection. Finally, always have a supply of hats for everyone in your family in the car and take advantage of the newer, sun-resistant swimwear and casual clothing available for children and adults.

CentraState’s Melanoma Center offers a highly trained medical team of dermatologists and surgeons who specialize in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. And, because prevention and early detection are significant components of the skin cancer program housed within the Center, it includes the newest screening service—MoleSafe—a skin documentation system that uses total body photography. Using a specialized digital camera, a trained nurse takes head-to-toe photos to create an electronic record of your skin. This record can be used during regular follow-up visits as a baseline for detecting changes in existing moles and lesions, as well as spotting any new ones. For more information about MoleSafe and the Melanoma Center at CentraState, call 855-411-CANCER. To make an appointment for MoleSafe, call 877-MOLESAFE.

Dr. Kaufman is a board-certified general surgeon on staff at CentraState Medical Center. He has also served as Chair of the Melanoma Workgroup of the NJ Governor's Task Force on Cancer Prevention, Early Detection and Treatment. Dr. Kaufman can be reached at Advanced Surgical Associates of Central Jersey by calling 732-303-3837.