With Memorial Day weekend quickly approaching, more and more outdoor activities are beginning to pop up as possible things we could do and enjoy. From hiking, to kayaking, to simply relaxing in our yards, it’s tempting to take advantage of Pittsburgh’s beautiful weather and rare sunny days. But, as doctors, we must ask: are you wearing sunscreen during these activities?

Sunscreen is unfortunately often viewed as a necessity only during sunny beach trips. After all, no one wants to get a sunburn during their vacation. Yet without sunscreen, our skin is completely susceptible to sunburns and sun damage - no matter where we are. And, as recent research revealed, this particularly dangerous for children.

Skin Damage: A Serious Health Risk

When it comes to skin care, a key factor to consider is that sun damage is sun damage - and includes everything from a light tan to a severe sunburn.That means any time spent outdoors, or even in tanning beds, is creating cumulative sun damage and affecting your skin, due to exposure to UV radiation.

This damage often increases our risk of developing skin cancer - and the chances of our risk increasing are especially high if that damage occurs on a frequent basis, or if the damage occurs during an intense instance (such as a sunburn that blisters or peels). As of today, skin cancer is currently the most common form of cancer. In fact, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.” And while there are different types of skin cancer, they each share a common source: sun damage.

Worryingly, recent research has found that sun damage is particularly problematic if it occurs during our childhood. One study found that suffering from just five blistering sunburns before we turn 20 years old increases our risk of developing melanoma by an incredible 80 percent.

How is this possible? While sunburns are often seem like a temporary issue, the reality is that the damage associated with them is long lasting. Skin damage is truly cumulative - and severe damage in particular is difficult for the body to recover from entirely.

Good Skin Care Today For A Healthier Tomorrow

The good news is that we can all easily reduce our risk of developing skin cancer, especially by minimizing our exposure to the sun. Easy ways to do this include:

These tips are particularly important for those who already have moles or freckles, or who have skin that burns easily. But, ultimately, these tips are for everyone. Skin cancer is a truly devastating illness that can affect anyone. Taking steps to care for your skin, and to protect it, is definitely worth your time and attention this summer.

Questions? Concerns? Don’t hesitate to give your doctors a call at Genesis Medical to review your own medical history and determine what you need to do to reach a healthier tomorrow.