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Sun Safety

Protect yourself from the sun

It’s summer! School is out, the sun is shining, and the water is calling your name. With such beautiful weather, you may find yourself spending a lot more time outside. Even with your darker skin tone, it’s still important to put on sunscreen. Skin cancer is a very real danger, even for women of color.

Being African-American, you have more melanin in your darker skin. This means that it may take longer for your skin to burn in the sun and may prevent early aging. But it won’t stop you from developing skin cancer. Although White women are more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma (a type of skin cancer), new research shows that melanoma is becoming more common among Hispanics and African-Americans.

Check Your Skin

Preventing skin cancer starts with you. Check your body for unusual looking moles or spots. If you find something that looks suspicious, talk to your doctor right away. Don’t wait. African-Americans and Hispanics are often diagnosed much later with skin cancer. By the time it is found, the melanoma is more advanced and likely to spread. This can make treatments less likely to work.

You can use this body mole map from the American Academy of Dermatology to write down anything you find.

You’ll want to check your skin for the ABCDE’s of Melanoma:

A-     Asymmetry– One half looks different than the other.

B-     Border– Oddly shaped, scalloped, or a mark that has a strange border around it.

C-     Color– The color changes from one spot to another. It can be shades of tan and brown or black. Sometimes it can be white, red or blue.

D-     Diameter– Melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm (the size of a pencil eraser) when they are diagnosed, but they can be smaller.

E-     Evolving– The mole or mark on your skins looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape, or color.

Protect Your Skin

Below are a few simple tips to protect your skin while you are out in the sun.

Stay in the shade.

  • When you can, try to find a shaded area.
  • Sit under a tree or set up an umbrella or beach tent.
  • The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. so try to limit how much time you are directly in the sun during those hours.

Use broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen.

  • Use a sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
  • Re-apply sunscreen about every 2 hours, even when it is cloudy. Sun screen wears off. It’s especially important to put it on again after you go swimming or sweat a lot.
  • You should use about 1 oz. of sunscreen for your whole body. This is about the size of a full shot glass.
  • Try to use lip balm, facial lotions, or foundations that contain SPF.
  • Don’t forget to check the expiration date. Sunscreen has a shelf life of about 3 years. The sunscreen won’t protect you if it is expired.

Wear protective clothing.

  • Wearing lightweight, loose fitting pants and long sleeved shirts offer the best protection from the sun’s UV rays.
  • Darker colors are better than lighter colors.
  • If you’re afraid you’ll be too hot, at least wear a t-shirt or beach cover up.
  • Wear hats (wide brim hats that cover your face, ears, and neck are best) and sunglasses when possible.

Be extra careful near sand and water.

  • Both of these can reflect the damaging rays of the sun, increasing your chance of skin cancer.

What about my baby?

Babies can get sunburn or heat stroke quickly when they are in the sun. Sunburns can cause fevers, pain, or dehydration. Try to keep your baby out of direct sunlight until they are at least 6 months old.

Here are some other tips for protecting your baby from the sun and heat:

  • Stay in the shade. Use the sunshade on your baby’s stroller or carriage whenever you’re outside. Stay under a tree or umbrella. But remember, without sunscreen, even a baby in the shade can still burn!
  • Cover their body. Cover your baby’s arms and legs in lightweight clothing. Put a hat on your baby. Use sunglasses if they will wear them.
  • Use sunscreen. Put broad spectrum sunscreen on your baby 15-20 minutes before you go outside and reapply every 2 hours. Use SPF 30 or higher
    • For babies younger than 6 months. Use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and the backs of the hands, but stay in the shade and put them in protective clothing if you can.
    • For babies older than 6 months. Put sunscreen on all areas of the body, but be careful around the eyes. If your baby rubs sunscreen into her eyes, wipe the eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth. If the sunscreen irritates her skin, try sunblock with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide. If a rash develops, talk with your child’s doctor
  • Cool down hot spaces. Make sure the car is cooled off before you go for a ride. If you are in a hot room, try to get the air circulating with fans or open windows.
  • Drink liquids. Give your baby plenty of liquids (breast milk or formula provides plenty of hydration; don’t offer water before 6 months).

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