“As summer begins here on Block Island, the sun is shining and we all want to go out and enjoy the breeze. The question many of us have before we head to the beach is what to do about sun exposure?”
Those are the words of Wes Albright, M.D., who is a resident working this summer at the Block Island Medical Center. The Block Island Times asked Albright his thoughts about the dangers of sun exposure, and what to do about burns, as well as preventive care.
Albright said one thing people can do is use sunscreen for protection from the sun’s harmful rays. “Sunscreen itself has been an evolving topic even recently. In 2012, the FDA recognized inadequate labeling of sunscreen in regards to what types of UV (ultraviolet) light it protects us from. Now they advise that for optimal sunscreen benefits you should shop for SPFs 30 to 50, labeled as broad-spectrum coverage with some sweat resistance. These three key components, as well as reapplying at least every two hours, will serve you well.”
“It is vitally important,” added Albright. “Both from a medical standpoint, in preventing both major and minor skin cancers, but also in preventing premature aging and painful sunburns.”
Albright noted that sun damage plays a “role in promoting skin cancer,” which he said “has been linked to both the very serious forms of skin cancer, like melanoma, as well as the less dangerous forms including squamous and basal cell skin cancer. Communities such as ours on Block Island have been shown to have higher rates of sun exposure and thus complications from these awful diseases.”
“In addition to skin cancer, and something our grandma probably would have been able to tell us, is the relationship between heavy sun exposure and premature cosmetic aging of our skin,” said Albright. “Excess sun exposure has the ability to make us look significantly — even a decade older than we really do. Other sun-related issues include higher rates of cataracts, as well as the well-known, pesky, painful sunburn. For these reasons, proper sun precautions are a good idea during the summer, and other months too. The first and best recommendation those in the medical community can make is: limiting sun exposure is the best way to avoid problems.”
Due to the dangers, Albright encourages people to be diligent in applying sunscreen, and taking precautions, such as covering exposed areas when enjoying outdoor activities. “When exercising outside, use sunscreen. When shopping for makeup, buy some with basic sunscreen protection.”
“Sun exposure duration should, and can be, limited without limiting your enjoyment of the outside and your otherwise physically healthy activity level,” said Albright. “We want people outside and having fun, and enjoying their world. However, when enjoying the beach, consider using an umbrella, wearing a hat or even a light, long-sleeved tee shirt.”
If the sun has burned you, Albright said that “cold compresses, aloe-vera lotions, and ibuprofen can often help” reduce the discomfort. However, he noted that there is a “waiting” period that people must endure while the human body heals from sunburn.
Albright said dermatologists recommend many things to help skin health, “both for those with serious primary skin disorders as well as the unaffected public. One thing most general practitioners have been happy to see is the rise of sunscreen formulations of basic cosmetic products. These hopefully will greatly decrease the sun damage done to our skin on a day-to-day basis, and are easily marketable as proven to decrease photo-aging.”
The most important thing about sun protection, Albright noted, was for people to take preventive minded safety measures, “including minimizing direct, intense exposure. Use the motivation of avoiding premature aging, as well as the important skin cancer risks, to help you stay on the right path.”
Reprinted here with permission from The Block Island Times