There’s nothing like being in the water on a hot day. It’s cool, it’s fun, kids love it – and swimming is great exercise.
But exposure to the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays increases the risk of skin cancer. Sun rays also reflect off water, sand, concrete or tiled surfaces, so thorough sun protection is especially important at the beach or a pool.
The Skin Cancer Foundation offers the following tips to help everyone have fun while staying sun-safe:
1. Slather on the sunscreen
For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. To avoid missing spots, apply the sunscreen to your entire body before putting on your bathing suit. Make sure to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating, to all exposed areas of the skin not covered by fabric.
2. Practice sunscreen application beforehand
Teach children to apply a sufficient amount of sunscreen (about two tablespoons or roughly equivalent to the size of a golf ball) 30 minutes before heading outside. Remind or help them to cover easily missed areas such as the back of the neck and the tops of the ears.
3. Cover up
Look for high-UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) swim shirts or rash guards for kids and adults, and choose bathing suits that cover more skin, like one-piece suits and long trunks. For optimal protection when out of the water, look for tightly woven or knitted, dark or bright-coloured fabrics, which offer the best protection. Don’t forget wide-brimmed hats and wraparound, UV-blocking sunglasses. When shopping for UPF products, look for the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation.
4. Don’t get burned
Your risk of developing melanoma doubles if you’ve ever had five or more incidents of sunburn.
5. Avoid tanning
There is no such thing as a safe tan, because tanning itself is caused by DNA damage to the skin. In addition to increasing skin cancer risk, tanning also leads to premature skin aging including wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots.
6. Remind kids to seek the shade
Advise kids to play in shaded areas or under beach umbrellas to limit UV exposure. Consider going to the beach or pool early or late in the day, when the sun’s rays aren’t as intense.
7. Keep newborns out of the sun
Clothing and shade are best for infants’ sensitive skin, which is especially vulnerable to sun damage. Start using sunscreen on babies at the age of six months, in addition to protective hats and clothing.