Common sense is best shield against the sun

Protecting oneself against the sun is the basic preventive measure against melanomas and skin cancer in general. Andreas Katsabas, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Athens University Medical School, says, «You can protect your skin in three ways: employing common sense; covering up with clothes; and using suntan lotions.» Reason dictates that exposure to the sun should not take place during the heat of the day, between 10.00 in the morning and 3.00 in the afternoon. One simple rule of thumb to follow is to bare our bodies to the sun when our shadow is as long as we are tall. An excellent protective shield against sunrays are clothes, particularly ones made of thick cloth such as jeans. At the same time, when going out in the sun, we should wear sunglasses, hats – people without hair have particular need of them in order to avoid cancer on the scalp – and light-colored tops, long-sleeved if possible. When exposure to the sun cannot be avoided, then use of suntan lotions is necessary. However, they need to be chosen with great care, with the right sun protection factor depending on skin type. A dark-skinned person who tans easily needs to choose a lotion with European sun protection factor 12. Someone who turns red before going brown needs to use a lotion with sun protection factor 20. Fairer skin types will require 25, 50 or 60. «Another criterion in choosing the right suntan lotion is skin type with respect to greasiness or dryness. Greasy skins do not need greasy suntan lotions, while dry skins do,» Katsabas added. Incorrect use of a suntan lotion will not afford proper sun protection. According to Katsabas, suntan lotion should be applied 20-30 minutes before exposure to the sun, and then every two hours afterward. Swimming and excessive perspiration remove the lotion faster from the skin, and in that case must be applied more frequently. Finally, the use of suntan lotions must not encourage people to sit for longer in the sun, since excessive exposure to sunrays nullifies its protective action. One common illusion is that umbrellas offer sufficient protection against the sun. Katsabas elaborates: «Umbrellas offer some, but not total, protection, since somebody could be exposed to sunrays from reflection. Seventeen percent of sunrays are reflected back from the sand, 85 percent from snow, 5 percent from water and 3 percent from grass. Clouds can reduce the danger but not completely, since harmful sunrays pass through the clouds.»

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