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Don't be stupid under the sun.

Noel Coward sang that "mad dogs and Englishmen go out in noon-day sun," but Americans tend to do so also. For years, a deep tan has been equated with vibrancy, good looks, and well-being.

However, hanging out under the noon-day sun - or even the morning sun, for that matter - is not a wise thing to do, indicates dermatologist Howard Gerber, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center. People have many misconceptions about the sun that can do real harm to their skin, he points out. Some of more common include the following:

You can't get a sunburn when it's cloudy. Such a belief is absolutely false. "Not all of the ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is that causes sunburn and harms your skin, is filtered by the clouds. When the sun isn't beating down on you, and you aren't hot and sweaty, you naturally want to stay outside longer. But in actuality, you may expose yourself to a higher dose of UV radiation - and therefore get burned - because you're staying outside longer."

"We only have a few days, so let's get as much sun as we can." People who think this way usually are those who haven't had much exposure to the sun. They may be coming from a cold climate and want to spend excessive amounts of time in the sun. "The problem with this approach is that you're setting yourself up for an intense burn, and may even become ill from the sun exposure."

Gerber warns that an acute, intense burn eventually could lead to skin cancer. "It appears that people who have had several intense, but short exposures to the sun and have burned are at higher risk of melanoma. The other skin cancers people get are more a result of long-term, cumulative exposure to the sun."

When vacationing in hot climates or spending large amounts of time outdoors, a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 is recommended. "I think people would be surprised that they can get a pretty good tan, even through an SPF of 15 or more. It won't be extremely dark, but at least they won't burn. Bronzing gels and lotions also are effective, healthier alternatives to spending lots of time in the sun in an attempt to get a tan.

It doesn't hurt kids to got a lot of sun. They're young and it won't age their skin. Allowing a youngster even a baby - to get sunburned could set that child up for melanoma later in life, Gerber cautions. "Even a little burn on the shoulders that lasts a day or so is enough to contribute to melanoma." Gerber suggests that parents put sunscreen, with at least an SPF of 15, on their children before letting them out into the sun for extended periods of time.

A little preventive medicine, he points out, can go a long way toward thwarting skin cancers, wrinkles, and premature aging. Using a suncreen, not staying out in the sun between the hours of 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., and limiting contact with tanning beds are among ft most important things you can do for your skin.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Society for the Advancement of Education
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:skin care
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Jul 1, 1993
Words:525
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