Summer has arrived! It is an open invitation to enjoy the Sun and all the fun it offers. Before you hit the park or the beach, remember these vital sun safety tips:
- Drink plenty of fluids. Water is the #1 choice, but also remember those that replace electrolytes lost when exercising and sweating. Try a 50:50 mixture of Gator Aid and water, coconut water, or 1/2 a squeezed lemon into 8 oz. of water. Popsicles are a tasty alternative. Rule of thumb – once you are thirsty, your water supply is low. Hydrate often, especially when sweating excessively.
- Apply sunscreen. Everyone, including African Americans, needs sunscreen as protection from the UV rays, and prevention of skin cancer. Damaging UV rays can penetrate all types of skin, regardless of ethnicity. Use a sunscreen that contains SPF30 or more. Reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
According to the National Cancer Institute, one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer annually. Over 60% with dark skin tones don’t apply sunscreen because they feel it is not needed. Sadly, this increases their risk of developing melanoma, a dangerous form of skin cancer.
Skin cancer can look different on different skin types. Often doctors don’t consider skin cancer when treating people of color. Common sites for skin cancer in people of color include the soles of the feet, palms of the hands and underneath fingernails and toenails.
See a dermatologist when you notice new moles, a sore that will not heal, or other skin changes.
- Shine On! Sunshine increases vitamin D3 and boosts serotonin levels to combat depression and supports a healthy immune system.
- Remember your sunglasses!
This is the time of year when summer fruits and vegetables are at their finest. They are fresh, vibrant and packed with vitamins. This season, why not renew your view of these rich nutrient picks.
- Pass the watermelon wedges. The amino acids in watermelon support cardiovascular health, enhance the immune system, help improve blood flow, detoxify the liver.
- Strawberries – This popular summer berry can lower risks of heart attacks and strokes; reduce inflammation; its fiber content can reduce diabetic blood sugar spikes.
- Heap on the grapes –these contain many vitamins (A, C, K, B6, Folate, and B-complex), minerals (potassium, calcium, magnesium, selenium, and iron) and powerful antioxidants that can combat many diseases and disorders such as fatigue, heart disease prevention, kidney problems, high blood pressure, and indigestion.
- Rediscover cucumbers. They are more than skin softeners and salad add-ons. They possess an enzyme that digests proteins and strengthens intestines. Composed mostly of water, cucumbers boost hydration while reducing constipation.
- Pile on the pineapple – This tropical fruit is packed with nutrients that support our immune system, bone and teeth development, and cold prevention. Additionally, pineapple contains a powerful anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory protein-eating enzyme called bromelain, which can also help with food digestion and absorption.
- Remember produce rich in Vitamin C. Since this vitamin is not produced or stored in the body, we need a lot on board to carry out specific functions; including stabilizing blood sugars to reduce anxiety; reducing allergy symptoms; collagen production for healthy skin, strengthening the immune system; and disease prevention. Green peppers, pineapple, oranges, blueberries, strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, and lemons are high in vitamin C.
- Include anti-toxin Vitamin E. Associated with improving circulation and muscle health, vitamin E also protects skin from sun damage and removes toxins. Foods high in vitamin E include green leafy vegetables, nuts, sunflowers seeds, salmon, trout, avocadoes, blackberries, butternut squash, and wheat germ oil.
There are resounding myths among the Black community: Black folks do not burn and only Caucasians get skin cancer.
According to the National Cancer Institute, one million people are diagnosed with skin cancer annually. Despite this staggering statistically information, many darker skin people (over 60 % to be exact) will skip the application of sunscreen because they think their darker tone will protect them damaging UV sun rays and developing skin cancer. Sadly, this line of thinking places them at a greater risk of developing a dangerous form of skin cancer called melanoma.
Remember–skin cancer does not discriminate. In fact, darker skin people are more likely to die of skin cancer in comparison those with lighter skin because they are not looking for obvious signs (e.g. changes in the skin) and do not take needed precautions to protect their skin. Medical doctors shoulder some of the responsibility for skin cancer. Skin cancer among people of color is often perpetuated among doctors for three critical reasons; thereby, increasing the risk of skin cancer to advance to later stages.
First, doctors are not thinking about skin cancer when treating this population group. Second, skin cancer among people of color appears in different locations in comparison to Caucasians. For example, people of color often get skin cancer on the bottom of their feet, palms of the hands, and underneath fingernails and toenails. Third, dermatologists may have a lack of training in skincare conditions among people of color. In fact, a recent study by Buster et al (2012) showed that more than 47% of dermatologists did not have the proper training to address the skin conditions of African-Americans. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3742002/
So What Can Be Done to Protect the Skin?
- Start by using sunscreen that contains SPF 30 or more.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or right after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Go to a dermatologist when you notice new moles, skin changes, a sore that will not heal, or dark spots under fingernails and toenails, soles and palms.