Mouth guard, shin guard, helmet…. sunscreen?

Released: 06/18/18

Your child is heading out for summer fun. Have you thrown all the right protective gear into your go-bag? “Sunscreen is just as important as the rest of the gear kids wear to avoid injury and stay healthy,” says James Ott, M.D., Mayo Clinic Health System skin specialist at Winneshiek Medical Center.

Top five facts to know about sunscreen

  1. Sunscreen is not just for summer. Harmful rays are present year-round, and children and adults alike should use sunscreen daily.
  2. Sunscreen expires. The FDA requires all sunscreens to retain their original strength for at least three years. Some brands include an expiration date, but not all. If you buy ahead for the summer, write the date-of-purchase right on the bottle. If your sunscreen is expired or past the three-year mark, throw it out.
  3. Spray sunscreens are convenient, but may not be your best choice. The challenge with spray sunscreens is applying enough to sun-exposed areas. Spray liberally, and rub the sunscreen into the skin. Be sure to avoid inhaling the sunscreen.
  4. Higher SPF is better… to a point. Dermatologists recommend an SPF of at least 30. Higher than SPF 30 will provide slightly better protection, but nothing is 100% effective. It is more important to reapply regularly than spend extra dollars on SPF 90.
  5. Broad-spectrum sunscreen protecting against UVA and UVB rays is the only research-backed product that protects against the sun’s harmful rays. Natural remedies like coconut oil or essential oils are not proven to protect from sunburn and prevent skin cancer.

“Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and can affect anyone at any age,” says Dr. Ott. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 95 percent of melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer) cases are attributable to UV exposure. Daily sunscreen use cuts the incidence of melanoma in half. Dr. Ott adds, “Melanomas can develop anywhere on your body, but are most often found on areas that have had sun exposure like your back, face, arms and legs.” Skin cancer warning signs include changes in size, shape or color of a mole or other skin lesion, the appearance of a new growth on the skin, or a sore that doesn’t heal.

Primary care and specialty providers at Winneshiek Medical Center Decorah, Ossian and Mabel Clinics can help you determine if you are at risk for skin cancer. Call 563-382-2911 to make an appointment.

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