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Keeping your skin safe from the summer sun

Posted at 5:30 PM, Jul 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-24 10:16:05-04

Summer is here, and like many Utahns, you are probably finding yourself spending more time in the sun. But all that time outside could be wreaking havoc on your skin.

Did you know that Utah leads the nation in cases of melanoma and other forms of skin caner as well? Dr. Doug Grossman, a dermatologist at Huntsman Cancer Institute says a lot of it has a lot to do with where we live. "We're a fair skinned population who likes to spend a lot of time outside, and we're at a higher altitude so the sun is stronger," Grossman said.

We don't need to avoid fun in the sun, but Dr. Grossman said we do need to be smart about it. "Try to avoid the middle part of the day when the sun is the strongest and then try to cover up as much as you can."

The other thing you should always do to protect your skin. Wear sunscreen. "Sunscreens do work. They're safe. And they really protect skin from the harmful ultraviolet rays," Grossman said.

There are two kinds of sunscreen, and it's a good idea to know the difference before you apply. Chemical based sunscreen contains chemical compounds that absorb the UV Rays, and you must reapply more often. Mineral based sunscreen like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide reflects UV Rays. According to dermatologists, both work when used properly. "If you’re getting tan, if you’re getting a sunburn, you know you’re not putting enough on or putting it on frequently enough," Grossman said.

You should also watch out for any new changes in your skin that could develop into melanoma or basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. "These usually present as a new lesion and maybe a little bump on the skin, maybe scaly, maybe red. It may bleed or it may just be a little tiny wound that’s not healing," Grossman said.

Melanoma, on the other hand, often looks like a mole. Dr. Grossman recommends getting anything checked out that is new or changing from month to month. He also says to stay away from tanning beds, because just one or two exposures is enough to double your melanoma risk.

Make sure you check your skin monthly, and contact a dermatologist if you find anything worrisome or out of the ordinary. "Most skin cancers if picked up early are not a big deal," Grossman said.

What's your UV IQ? Click here to learn how to keep your family safe from the summer sun.