Protect your skin! Idahoans have a higher melanoma rate than the rest of the United States

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We’ll soon be spending lots of time in the sun, and many of us won’t properly protect ourselves from its damaging rays. As we get ready for the long Memorial Day weekend to kick off our summer, Friday is National Don’t Fry Day, and it’s a good time to make a promise to yourself to be more responsible in the sun this summer. Sunburns add up. Every time you get a sunburn, your risk for skin cancer increases.

Is it really necessary to take precautions if you’re not outside very long?  

The sun’s ultraviolet rays can damage skin – especially fair skin — in as little as 15 minutes, but it can take up to 12 hours for the full effect to show up. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with melanoma being the deadliest form. Idahoans have a higher rate of melanoma than the national average and one of the highest death rates in the nation. So it’s always important to take precautions in the sun.

Who is most at risk?

Those with fair skin or hair, freckles, and blue eyes are at the highest risk for developing skin cancer, but everyone who spends time outside increases their risk and should make sun safety part of their daily routine. While being sun safe is important, early detection is vital in treating skin cancers, so check your skin regularly and see a doctor if you find anything you’re not sure about.

How can we avoid sunburns?

It may not be well-known that you can get sunburned in Idaho well into the evening. A good rule of thumb is that when your shadow is shorter than you are tall, the intensity of ultra-violet rays from the sun can still cause sunburn. So you should try to be in the shade when you can, and wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection. Sunscreen is a must for any exposed skin, but you can also wear lightweight clothing that has been treated to block the sun’s harmful rays.

What are the guidelines for using sunscreen?

Sunscreen should have a minimum SPF of 30, which blocks 97 percent of the suns’ rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. Higher SPFs block slightly more, but no sunscreen totally blocks the sun’s harmful effects. A water-resistant sunscreen should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. It’s important to remember to reapply it after about two hours, after swimming, and after any activity that makes you sweat.

What’s the best treatment for a sunburn?

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends getting out of the sun immediately and then using cool baths to reduce heat, moisturizer containing aloe vera or soy to help with the dryness, hydrocortisone cream, and aspirin or ibuprofen to help with discomfort and reduce swelling. Drinking lots of water also will help prevent dehydration.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs most Tuesdays at 6:50 a.m. on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited transcript of the segment from May 21.) 

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