Why Do You Need to Slather on that Sun Screen?

July 10, 2019

Summertime brings thousands to our beaches and waterways to enjoy fun in the sun.  But while those first warm rays of sun might feel good, Dr. Jason Miller, board certified dermatologist and Regional Medical Director of Schweiger Dermatology Group, suggests that we should all know the potential harm of the sun’s rays for a smart start to summer. Dr. Miller is a consulting physician with Shore Cancer Center.

Human beings are designed to be outdoors and Dr. Miller has simple sun-safe advice: hats and sun protective clothing along with sunscreen will keep skin safe and younger looking longer while lowering your risk of skin cancer. One in five people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime, according to Dr. Miller. He called it the most preventable form of cancer, one that is often easily treated if diagnosed early.

The Sun May Be Stronger Than You Think
The rays of the sun are strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The American Cancer Society (ACS) advises to limit direct sunlight for too long and if there is a question of just how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test. If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest and it is important to protect yourself.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a major risk factor in most skin cancers. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays. Tanning lamps and beds are also sources of UV rays. People who get a lot of UV exposure from these sources are at greater risk for skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Even though UV rays make up only a small portion of the sun’s rays, they are the main cause of the sun’s damaging effects on the skin.

Ultraviolet rays consist of long waves (UVA) and short waves (UVB). The UVA rays age skin cells, are linked to wrinkles and can damage their DNA and play a role in some skin cancers. The American Cancer Society indicates that tanning beds give off large amounts of UVA. The UVB rays can damage skin cells’ DNA directly, and are the main rays that cause sunburns and are thought to cause most skin cancers.

Dr. Miller said he recommends common sense sun safety. Try to avoid the mid-day sun if possible. Schedule outdoor plans for early or late in the day. Use a hat and sun protective clothing when possible, and most importantly, apply sunscreen every day - even if it is cloudy.

When in the water or on a boat, Dr. Miller said there is added exposure to the sun due to the reflection off of the water. It is so important to remember to reapply the sunscreen and ideally wear protective clothing and hats as well.

Sun protective clothing like SPF (sun protection factor) treated shirts, hats or rash guards add a layer of protection in the sun.

Apply that Sunscreen!
Dr. Miller suggests that sunscreens with an SPF of 30 or higher are sufficient for most people. But applying it once and calling it a day is not enough. According to Dr. Miller, sunscreen should be reapplied every 2-3 hours, even if the sunscreen is labeled water-resistant.

Earlier this year news reports questioned if sunscreens were actually providing the level of protection listed on the container. Dr. Miller explained that there are two classes of sunscreen ingredients- physical and chemical blockers. He said physical blockers include zinc or titanium and are often the best and safest sunscreen ingredients, although they may be less cosmetically elegant due to their thickness and white residue.  Chemical blockers include oxybenzone or avobenzone - these work well and are more elegant (offering clear or spray formulations), but involve chemicals that theoretically can be absorbed into the blood or may affect the health of aquatic life.

Dr. Miller weighed in on tanning beds, saying there is no safe way to use a tanning bed. He added that both the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have published on the significant increase in risk of all forms of skin cancer in those who utilize tanning beds. Dr. Miller suggests spray tans are safe.

Slip! Slop! Slap! ® and Wrap
The American Cancer Society’s awareness campaign for skin cancer prevention promotes the slogan “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap”. It reminds people of the four key ways they can protect themselves from UV radiation: Slip on a shirt, Slop on sunscreen, Slap on a hat and Wrap on sunglasses to protect your eyes and sensitive skin around them.

Be Summer Smart with Free Skin Cancer Screenings
During the summer the Cape Atlantic Coalition for Health will be offering free skin cancer screenings in Atlantic and Cape May counties. No registration is required. Cape Atlantic Coalition for Health is a regional chronic disease prevention coalition funded by the New Jersey Department of Health, Office of Cancer Control and Prevention, and Shore Medical Center is the lead agency for Atlantic and Cape May counties.

  • Ventnor- Saturday July 6, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Newport Ave. Gazebo
  • Cape May-Saturday July 20, 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at Convention Hall
  • Longport-Saturday July 20, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at S 35th Ave. Gazebo
  • Sea Isle City-Sunday July 28, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at JFK Promenade
  • Atlantic City-Sunday Aug. 25, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at McClinton Park, New Hampshire Ave.

The Shore Cancer Center, located just across the street from Shore Medical Center, was designed and developed to bring the most advanced cancer care available to the people of southern New Jersey in a private and attractive space that is comfortable for patients, their families and friends. Since 1987, Shore Medical Center has received approval from the American College of Surgeons Commission on Cancer (CoC), by meeting or exceeding the organization’s stringent standards for patient care. For more information call 609-653-3500.

Shore Medical Center has been the lead agency for the Cancer Education and Early Detection (CEED)* program in Atlantic County since 1997.  Through this program, Shore Medical Center is able to provide FREE cancer screenings to people who live in Atlantic County and are uninsured or underinsured with a limited income.  It only takes a few minutes to see if you qualify.  US citizenship is not required. For more information on the CEED program call 609-653-3484.