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Sep 14, 2017

Healthy Living: Soaking Up the Sun Responsibly

With all the festivities taking place this month, Belizeans will be spending more time outdoors. It means exposure to the sun will be more than usual and while it can cause a host of skin problems it may lead to the cancer of the skin. In tonight’s Healthy Living we look at why it is important to protect yourself from the sun and reduce the dreaded risk of skin cancer.

 

Marleni Cuellar, Reporting

It’s celebration month in Belize. The marathon of activities kicked off with the start of September. While there are regular messages about safety and reduced alcohol consumption; there is one health hazard that we often forget. That’s excessive sun exposure.

 

Jorge Lopez

Dr. Jorge Lopez, Dermatologist

“When you talk about sun burn. It’s usually a first degree burn. What that means is that it will show as redness the skin. It will give you discomfort in place of burning. This could lead to blistering. Sunburn on darker skin is not as evident. The reason for this if you take a person with very clear skin they’re normal S.P.F. would be three point four and if you take a person with the darkest skin possible. Their S.P.F. is thirteen point four; all the rest fall in between. There is a difference between how sensitive each person is depending on a person’s color of skin. Even if my skin is very dark it does not protect from the damage on the molecular level that sunlight and UV radiation produces. Maybe I’m not going to get a blister maybe I’m not get going to get red or my skin is going to peel off but definitely the damage to the cells of the skin will be there. Sunburn should not be taken lightly because we know out of very solid data that even with one burn, one sun burn; that increases the chances of a person to have melanoma which is the deadliest form of melanoma. Now, there are other factors in play like genetics. It doesn’t if you mean if you get a sun burn you will have melanoma but it adds up.”

 

What if you already had too much fun in the sun? Here’s how to deal with the burn.

 

Dr. Jorge Lopez

“You always want to moisturize the skin that has been sunburn. That is one of the most important things to do. The other thing is to use something cooling or soothing to the skin. So that moisturizer you may want to leave it in the fridge and apply as needed. If there is itching or burning then you can take an antihistamine, it helps you with those symptoms. Something important if you get a blister is not reroofing the blister. That can increase you chance so f an infection and secondly of the healing process leaving some marks on your skin.”

 

He also warns against showering with hot water as this will dry your skin. Don’t exfoliate or peel your skin. For those looking to prevent sunburn. Here are some tips.

 

Dr. Jorge Lopez

“In the U.S., they say from ten to four; but in Belize, you’re outside at seven you already feel it. So I would say stay out of the sun if you can from nine to four, which is funny because if you look at schools, P.E. is almost always done around midday. And not everywhere there is shade to protect the kids. It’s an issue that even adults and the public health setting do not pay that much attention to it. So avoidance would be the best thing to do.”

 

Sunscreen with an S.P.F. thirty is also a must and applied every two hours. Protective clothing is also helpful…no need to break your pockets on specialized gear.

 

Dr. Jorge Lopez

“You don’t need to buy anything expensive that says U.V. protection added. There was a study that showed that they compared a normal long sleeved shirt with one of the expensive ones and they are wet the protection is basically the same. Tightly woven clothes are best rather than loose clothes. Those are the three, avoidance, sunscreen, protective clothing which includes a hat and of course sunshades to protect your eyes. The skin is the biggest organ we have and it is the one that is protecting us from the environmental factors. Skin cancer is real.  That’s one reason avoiding skin cancer. The second one is a little more appealing. That is that the more sun damage that you get the sooner you age; the sooner your skin will age. If I have ten wrinkles on my face; eight are due to sun damage and only two are due to my age.”

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