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Moment for Health: Healthy Fun in the Sun

The sun rises and the sun sets, and in between it shines forth its rays for life on earth. Although ultraviolet rays are perfect for plants to convert into energy, UV rays react differently on us. People produce melanin, not photosynthesis, and can be harmed by its affects.

Though a little bit of sunshine is good for the bones and overall health, too much of this good thing has the potential to kill.

Sun exposure can cause skin cancer, making melanoma an important malignancy, especially in south Orange County, according to Dr. Burton Eisenberg, the executive medical director at Hoag Family Cancer Institute.

In a video titled Sun Safety that is part of a series called Project Wipeout put out by Hoag, Dr. Eisenberg states, “Awareness of skin cancer and the effects of solar radiation is very important.”

The sun is a beautiful thing. It brings life to earth. It gives a sense of well-being. And is the prime reason people flock to the beach. But everyone should be aware radiation from the sun is a constant presence and always beaming down, cloudy days or not, to be absorbed by the skin.

According to Jessica Dhillon, Block the Blaze Program Director for the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. But even more astounding is that one in three southern Californians will develop cancer in their lifetime due to the amount of ultraviolet radiation exposed to us on a daily basis.

As the number one injury on the beach, it should be included in every beach safety program. Limiting the sun during the height of the afternoon hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and wearing sunscreen are the two top ways to protect from the sun’s harmful rays.

Larry Sherwin, a Newport Beach resident and board certified dermatologist, cannot stress enough that sunscreen, applied very carefully and repeated every three or four hours, especially if in water, is the key to keeping the skin healthy and safe from the sun.

“Behave sensibly when in the sun,” he said. “Put a shirt and hat on and don’t forget to apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (spf) of 30 or more. Also, stay away from long exposures outside during the day without covering up. Lying out in the sun to tan for hours is just asking for trouble.”

It’s good to remember that applying sunscreen on every exposed area of the skin is essential to avoiding the chance for skin cancer. “Many people, especially men, just slop the sunscreen on without taking the time and care needed to cover all areas,” stated Sherwin. “Understand it takes about 30 minutes to absorb into the skin, so do it before you go outside. And be sure to reapply it regularly.”

A good way to know if your sunscreen has worn off, especially when in water, is to apply a coat of zinc oxide, the thick white sunscreen, either on the nose or on the arm as an indicator. If it’s disappeared, you know your sunscreen needs to be reapplied.

People with genetically dark skin need to be aware of sun exposure too. But those with blue eyes need to understand the workings of genetics and be a lot more cautious when going outside.

“Skin cancer has a lot to do with genetics,” says Sherwin. “Fair skin, blond hair, blue eyes are more genetically prone to skin damage. You can have medium colored olive skin and dark hair, but can be genetically recessive for blond hair if you or one of your parents has blue eyes.”

Sunny southern California is definitely setup for outside enjoyment with frequent trips to the beach. Remember the absence of sun is not a cloudy day, it’s nighttime. So whether it’s a bright sunny day or a cloudy one, apply the sunscreen, hydrate with lots of water and cover-up with hat, shirt and sunglasses this summer.

And of course, have fun!

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