TMH Living Well Column: Enjoy Sun the Safe Way

The Memorial Hospital

There are not a lot of things that beat feeling the warmth and heat of the sun on your skin. But how much sun is safe? Is a tanning booth ever okay? Follow these guidelines from to ensure your time in the sun is not just enjoyable, but guilt free and safe.

When it comes to the sun, your top priority is to prevent burns. The risk for melanoma, a serious skin cancer, doubles with five or more sunburns. With kids, it takes only one blistering sunburn to double their chances of melanoma later in life.

Here’s how not to burn:

Limit your time in the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you do go out, wear plenty of sunscreen and apply one ounce (two tablespoons) every two hours — and don’t forget to reapply especially after swimming. Water and sand reflect up to 80 percent of the sun’s rays so be extra vigilant when spending a day at the beach.

Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) 15 SPF or higher sunscreen. It makes sense that an SPF of 30 is double the protection of an SPF 15, but it doesn’t work that way. It’s really just a few percentage points stronger — 15 provides 93 percent protection and 30, 97 percent.

Apply sunscreen every day to your face. You may think you don’t need sunscreen on a workday, but what if you sit out at lunch? Even 15 minutes in intense Colorado sun can cause a burn.

Take shade breaks. Shade breaks can take the form of sitting under a tree or umbrella, spending time inside or slipping on long sleeves and a hat. Yet don’t count on clothing to provide complete sun protection. The average t-shirt is only worth 7 SPF. If you are headed outside for the day it’s best to apply sunscreen to your entire body.

Avoid tanning booths. According to, just one indoor UV tanning session increases chances of developing melanoma by 20 percent. Skin cancer rates for young people ages 18 to 39 have skyrocketed, and tanning beds have added to this problem.

Do regular skin checks

Besides monitoring your sun exposure, monitor your skin. Stay familiar with all the bumps, discolorations, sores and growths on your skin. Watch for changes over time — especially on your head, neck and arms. Skin cancer doesn’t always look the same. It can be rough or scaly, raised or flat or an open sore. When looking, apply the ABCDE rule and tell your doctor if a growth has any of these features: A — asymmetry (two sides don’t match), B — border (ragged, irregular or blurred), C — color (not the same all over), D — diameter (larger than a pencil eraser) and E — evolving (changing shape).

You can also visit a dermatologist for a thorough skin check or request one at your next annual exam.

A tan from a bottle

If you want that golden glow, consider using a sunless tanning product once or twice a week. They come in moisturizers, towelettes, lotions, creams, sprays, gels and mousses. Self-tanning moisturizers are the slowest, mildest form that build a glow over time with daily use. Tanning sprays provide the quickest tan.

TMH Medical Clinic is handing out sample packets of sunscreen for whoever wants them — if you find yourself out and about near 785 Russell St. and in need of sunscreen, stop in!

This weekly article with tips on living well is sponsored by The Memorial Hospital at Craig — improving the quality of life for the communities we serve through patient-centered healthcare and service excellence.

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