Sun tans and skin cancer

Spring-like weather seems to be finally arriving in the Upper Peninsula and northeastern Wisconsin.

Soon, area residents will be outdoors enjoying the weather in the shirtsleeves and shorts – maybe even a bathing suit.

Activities will increase at the pool, beach, garden and yard, as well as bike, ATV and motorcycle riding, and other outdoor activities.

The Michigan Primary Care Consortium stresses the risk of skin cancer and premature skin wrinkling are significant.

The consortium, a statewide, multi-stakeholder non-profit corporation leading Michigan’s transformation efforts by ensuring sustainable, quality, and accessible primary care, states it’s important to adhere to sun tanning and exposure guidelines.

According to the Michigan Department of Community, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, in 2008 there were 2,156 cases of invasive melanomas of the skin and 2,083 cases in 2009.

Individuals who are pale skin, have blond, red, or light brown hair, being treated for skin cancer or related skin issues, or a family history of skin cancer are most susceptible.

Here are some guidelines from the Michigan Primary Care Consortium. Be sure to consult with your primary care physician for additional guidelines which may be important to your particular care plan.

– Reduce Time in the Sun: It’s important to limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest. Even on an overcast day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s ultra-violet (UV) rays can get through the clouds. Stay in the shade as much as possible throughout the day.

– Dress with Care: Wear clothes that protect your body. If you plan on being outside on a sunny day, cover as much of your body as possible. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, and pants. Sun-protective clothing is now available. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only regulate such products if the manufacturer intends to make a medical claim. Consider using an umbrella for shade.

– Be Serious about Sunscreen: Check product labels to make sure you get:

A “sun protection factor” (SPF) of 15 or more. SPF represents the degree to which a sunscreen can protect the skin from sunburn.

“Broad spectrum” protection-sunscreen that protects against all types of skin damage caused by sunlight.

Water resistance-sunscreen that stays on your skin longer, even if it gets wet. Reapply water-resistant sunscreens as instructed on the label.

Your pharmacist can also offer recommendations.

– Tips for Applying Sunscreen: Apply the recommended amount evenly to all uncovered skin, especially your lips, nose, ears, neck, hands, and feet.

Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going out in the sun.

If you don’t have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head, or wear a hat.

Reapply at least every two hours.

Give babies and children extra care in the sun. Inquire with your primary care physician or pediatrician before applying sunscreen to children under six months old.

Apply sunscreen to children older than six months every time they go out.

– Protect Your Eyes: Sunlight reflecting off sand and water further increases exposure to UV radiation and increases your risk of developing eye problems.

– Tips for eye-related sun safety include:

When buying sunglasses, look for a label that specifically offers 99 to 100 percent UV protection..

Eyewear should be labeled “sunglasses.” Otherwise, you can’t be sure they will offer enough protection.

Pricier sunglasses don’t ensure greater UV protection.

Ask an eye care professional to test your sunglasses if you don’t know their level of UV protection.

People who wear contact lenses that offer UV protection should still wear sunglasses.

Wraparound sunglasses offer the most protection.

Children should wear real sunglasses (not toy sunglasses) that indicate the UV protection level.

– Check Your Birthday Suit on Your Birthday: If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see your family physician. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

Additionally, the FDA has regulated tanning beds and sun lamps for over 30 years, but for the first time ever the agency says those devices should not be used by people under age 18. Recent studies have shown that the risk of melanoma is 75 percent higher in people who have been exposed to ultraviolet radiation from indoor tanning.

More information can be found at the American Academy of Dermatology at, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at, and the Skin Cancer Foundation at

Protect yourself from too much sun.