Make healthy choices in the summer sun

Karen LaJambe is an ARNP at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital - Courtesy photo
Karen LaJambe is an ARNP at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Everyone is excited that the sunshine has finally come to stay. But too much sun exposure can ruin vacations, age your skin and contribute to skin cancer in the long term.

The following are ways to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays:

• Avoid sun from the most intense rays, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

• Wear dark fabrics, tighter weaves and long sleeves amd pants.

• Wear a hat with a two to three-inch brim, not just a baseball cap!

• Wear sunglasses with labels that read “Meets ANSI UV Requirements,” meaning the glasses block at least 99 percent of UV rays. Those labeled “cosmetic” block about 70 percent of the UV rays.

• Wear sunscreen with the highest UV light blockage, up to SPF 50. That means you get the equivalent of one minute of UV rays for every 50 minutes you spend in the sun. Apply sunscreen every two to three hours, even if it says waterproof. No sunscreen on babies less than 6 months.

• Remember your sunblock lip balm.

How sun affects skin

UV rays can increase melanin in the body’s cells, which may trigger cancer cell growth, damage skin to increase wrinkles, decrease skin elasticity, cause dark liver or age spots and cause pre-cancer skin changes called actinic keratoses.

The sun’s UV rays can also increase risk of cataracts and certain other eye problems and can suppress the immune system. Although dark-skinned people are generally less likely to get skin cancer than light-skinned people, they can still get cataracts and immune system suppression.

Damage factors

Be careful if you:

• Have fair skin or blond, red, or light brown hair;

• Are prone to sunburn;

• Lots of moles, irregular moles, or large moles;

• Were previously treated for skin cancer;  

• Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma; 

• Live or vacation at high altitudes (UV radiation increases four to five precent for every 1,000 feet above sea level);

• Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates;  

• Work indoors all week and then get a tan on weekends;

• Spend a lot of time outdoors;

• Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE, or “lupus”) or;

• Had an organ transplant.

Medicine risk

The following medicines can increase your risk for sunburn:

• Medicines that lower your immunity;

• Birth control pills;

• Tetracycline, sulfa drugs or certain other antibiotics ;

• Naproxen sodium or certain other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs

• Phenothiazines (major tranquilizers and anti-nausea drugs;

• Ttricyclic antidepressants;

• Thiazide diuretics (medicines used for high blood pressure and some heart conditions) and;

• Sulfonylureas (a form of oral anti-diabetic medication.

• Karen LaJambe is an ARNP at Snoqualmie Valley Hospital

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