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By Scot Ackerman, M.D.


Protecting Your Skin This Summer

Sun is a fact of life here in Florida and a big reason people choose to live in the Sunshine State, but as with most things in life, moderation is key.

The health risks associated with overexposure to the sun and harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are widely known. They include:

  • Skin Cancer
  • Premature aging
  • Cataracts and eye damage
  • Suppression of the immune system

What is less clear is how much sunlight individuals really need and how much is safe. The biggest benefit of sun exposure is vitamin D synthesis. The body needs vitamin D to promote calcium absorption and maintain blood calcium and phosphate levels.

Recent studies have shown a possible link to chronic sun exposure and a reduced risk of several types of cancer including breast, colorectal, prostate and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While I am not advocating spending unprotected time soaking up the sun, it is worth noting that these studies are continuing and may provide valuable information in the future.

For now, my advice is to practice sun safety by adhering to the following practices:

  • Avoid midday sun and seek shade between 10 am and 4pm
  • Never use tanning beds
  • Wear hats and sun protective clothing
  • Use daily mineral sunscreen year-round
  • Examine your skin monthly for new growths or changes

When selecting sunscreen, choose wisely. A number of studies have brought to light troublesome ingredients found in sunscreen that could make their way into the bloodstream. Mineral sunscreens work by sitting on top of the skin, providing a physical barrier to harmful UV rays. Chemical sunscreens, on the other hand, work by absorbing UV rays, unfortunately, they also absorb into the skin.

Below are my recommendations for choosing a sunscreen:

  • Look for a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. These products block 97 percent of UVB rays
  • Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays
  • Purchase mineral-based sunscreen with non-nano zinc oxide
  • Opt for lotion formulations since it is easy to miss areas when using spray

Enjoy the sun, but protect your skin. By following these simple steps, you can reduce skin damage due to harmful UV rays. And remember to protect your eyes, too. Look for sunglasses that state they block 100 percent of UV rays and wear them when you are in the sun.

All my best,

Scot Ackerman, M.D.

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