Soak up the sun

Marisa Dalessandro

Skin care in the summertime

Credit: Beth Rankin

Sheryl Crow created a summer anthem with the song “Soak up the Sun.” The summer months are full of lazy days spent outside basking in the sun. But how much damage is being done to our skin during the process?

Statistics from the American Academy of Dermatology show that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. An estimated 106,000 people will be diagnosed with melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) this year in the United States alone — a 10-percent increase from 2004. The disease will claim approximately 7,770 lives this year.

If being in the sun is necessary for summer fun, there are ways to stay safe. Always wear sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher; a tan will still develop, but the sunscreen will prevent burning. Sunscreen should be applied 30 to 60 minutes before sun exposure for maximum effectiveness. Re-apply the sunscreen throughout the day, since most brands tend to wear off over time from perspiration and swimming.

Dermatologist Clay J. Cockerell, president of the American Academy of Dermatology, said, “Individuals who seek the sun are intentionally putting their health at risk. When you are enjoying yourself outdoors, be smart by taking steps to protect yourself — seek shade whenever possible, wear sunscreen and cover up with a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves, pants and sunglasses. Also, avoid tanning beds.”

What people may not be aware of is that sun exposure has its health benefits too. Sunlight may help avoid winter depression.

A disorder known as seasonal affective disorder relates to the amount of sunlight received. Recently, researchers have concluded that exposure to sunlight helps reduce depression during the winter months.

Sunlight, melatonin (the sleep hormone) and serotonin (the hormone associated with being awake) combine to make up a person’s mood. The more sunlight, the higher the serotonin levels in the body.

“While the health benefits of vitamin D are well known, prescribing sunshine to get vitamin D is highly irresponsible,” said Dr. Cockerell. Instead he suggests maintaining a healthy diet with fortified foods and beverages.

Looking great with a tan now can worsen skin’s appearance later in life. To gain the look of a healthy glow, try a sunless tanner or spray on tan. Several local salons offer the spray-on tan.

When “soaking up the sun” remember the sunscreen and smile because when it’s sunny in Ohio, moods are elevating.

Contact general assignment reporter Marisa Dalessandro at [email protected].