Reducing your risk for skin cancer as summer heats up

Published: Jul. 6, 2020 at 6:50 PM EDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - With many more people choosing to spend time outside and on the water this summer, it’s important to make sure your skin is safe.

One in 5 Americans develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the American Academy of Dermatology.

Aspirus dermatologist Dr. Agnieszka Thompson says the sun is the strongest between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, and that time frame is when people should be sure to apply lots of sunscreen and re-apply every 2 hours.

“When you’re looking at sunscreen, you want to make sure that it’s broad spectrum, and SPF 30 or higher is what I generally recommend,” said Dr. Thompson. “I want all my patients to be outside enjoying this gorgeous weather, but it’s important to be safe.”

Doctor Thompson says using physical blockers is good for those with sensitive skin and good for children. She tells her patients the sunscreen can be a spray, foam or stick.

"There are chemical and physical blockers. Chemical blockers have different ingredients that kind of absorb the rays of the sun, whereas physical blockers are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide and those actually reflect the rays off of your skin," she said.

She says skin cancer is common. She sees it almost every day in her office and regularly removes it from people’s bodies.

"Ultraviolet exposure that's cumulative over your lifetime, as you get older, all of those mutations happen in your skin, and then you can develop skin cancer," she said.

While skin cancer might not be top of mind for beach goers, the sun’s reflection off the sand and water make it more intense. People who have seen family get skin cancer often keep the risk in mind.

"I've seen my brother and my folks all get skin cancer, so I try and avoid too much exposure," said Sandy Lamberg, who was enjoying the sun Monday.

It's made her conscious of which sunscreen to buy.

"Try and go with something with zinc oxide in it, which is a physical block, as opposed to a chemical block, it also happens to be more reasonably priced, which is another benefit," she said.

Dr. Thompson says several bad, blistering sunburns over time are what put you at risk for skin cancer.

“If you’re maintaining your normal, natural skin color, that’s all you need to see,” she said.

If you easily forget to re-apply sunscreen, she says you can also wear a rash guard or a long sleeve cover up and a long brim hat.

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