By: Will Miller, PA-C, Christie Clinic Department of Dermatology
Summer has come and everyone is out and enjoying the sun. This is well deserved, and I encourage
everyone to do so! Being outside is a great way to be physically active, reduce stress, and get Vitamin D.
We simply ask that you do so safely. It is important to remember that the warmth and excitement that
the sun brings does not come without risks such as sunburns, photoaging, and skin cancer. It is possible to work and play outside without damaging your skin.
Every time the sun’s rays hit your skin, they can damage your skin. This cumulative effect begins at birth
and the damage accumulates over time. Later in life, we must deal with the results of this damage.
Multiple times a week I hear some variation of, “If I knew what I know now, I would have been much
more careful with sun exposure.” I encourage everyone to heed their advice, protect your skin, and
wear your sunscreen!
One of the best, and easiest ways, to combat these harmful effects is with diligent sunscreen use.
Sunscreen is vitally important to people of any skin color, even more so to those with fair skin, light hair,
and/or light eyes. We suggest broad-spectrum sunscreens which work by absorbing and reflecting the
radiation from the UV rays. We also prefer SPF30 or greater. SPF numbers indicate the ability of a
sunscreen to protect someone from a sunburn. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before sun
exposure and re-applied every 2 hours, sooner if involved in water activities.
It is estimated that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Unfortunately, a
recent survey found that only 14% of men and 30% of women regularly use sunscreen. Of those
applying sunscreen, 25-50% of them are not applying enough sunscreen. Most adults need an ounce, or a shot glass full, to cover their entire body.
As mentioned above, the literature supports sunscreen use for protection against multiple negative
effects of the sun.
o Studies have shown drastic reductions in risk
50% reduction in melanoma development
40% reduction in the development of squamous cell carcinoma
o We also see a reduction in pre-cancerous lesions with sunscreen use.
Photoaging – wrinkling, sagging, and development of sunspots
o Photoaging, or premature aging of the skin due to damage from the sun, has been
shown to be greatly reduced with diligent use of sunscreen.
Other sun-related skin conditions such as sunburns
Sun damage is a constant threat that we face while being outdoors. This doesn’t mean that we need to
avoid being outside. Rather, we need to utilize safe sun practices while outside. By diligently wearing
sunscreen we can have the best of both worlds enjoying the sun while protecting our skin