Saturday, May 25, 2013

Prepared for summer? Tips for those with Chronic Conditions: Sunscreen

This weekend ushers in the summer season. So how well prepared are you for the season ahead? Do you plan to travel? Are there some unique characteristics for the community in which you live, (e.g. Lyme Disease) which you should take special precautions for?

 This Saturday begins a three part series Preparing for Summer. Even though it’s been raining for days where I live, and snow is in the forecast for tonight, today’s post is about sunscreen.

Depending on medications you may be taken and/or medical condition, sun exposure can be a serious problem. Start by checking prescription labels for warnings. If you aren’t sure, ask your pharmacist or talk to your medical provider.

There is conflicting information about sun exposure. Some think a certain amount (5-10 minutes) helps to prevent vitamin D deficiency, and others claim that no amount is acceptable and sunscreen should be worn at all times.
With skin cancer being the most common form of cancer in the US, there are real benefits of sunscreen. However, animal studies have raised concerns about what’s in these products. According to the ConsumerReports' Sunscreen Buying Guide,  Nanoparticles of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide have been linked to reproductive and developmental effects in animals. Our tests found that all four of the sunscreens with these mineral-based active ingredients contain nanoparticles. Retinoids, part of the vitamin A family and an inactive ingredient in some sunscreens, have caused an increase in skin cancers in mice.... Animal studies have indicated that oxybenzone, which is in many sunscreens, may interfere with hormones in the body.
To stay protected from the sun:
• Wear a broad brim hat, protective clothing (long-sleeved shirt, pants) and sun glasses
• Seek shade and avoid being outside in the hottest part of the day-10 am-2 pm .
• Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect damaging sun rays.
• Use a broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 40. Note that the American Academy of Dermatology recommends 30, but Consumer Reports recommendation is higher. In their 2012 report, they note “We use to recommend 30, but given the performance of this latest batch, a claim of 40 makes more sense. “ As far as which brand to use, according to Consumer Reports’ annual sun survey for 2013, the top brands are as follows: Target Up and UP Sports SPF 50 had the highest overall score; Walmart, Equate Ultra Protection Sunscreen SPF 50 was No. 2; Coppertone Water Babies 50 lotion number 3; and number 4 was Walgreens, Continuous Spray Sports SPF 50. Cheaper, Store-Brand Sunscreens Protect BetterThan Costly Counterparts 
• Apply sunscreen liberally according to label directions.
Learn more about applying sunscreen and other ways to protect your skin-American Academy of Dermatology’s Sunscreen FAQs. 
Since many people with chronic conditions may be more sensitive to sun and sunscreens, discuss it with your medical provider.  Talk to condition specific organizations (e.g. American Cancer Society) since they will often have information from other members about what works and what doesn’t for a particular medical condition. 

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