The Doctor’s Note: Should I use sunscreen?

Summer is here, and nothing beats being outside enjoying a beautiful, sunny Kansas day. When you are going to be outside, include sunscreen as part of your routine as you dress for the day, even when it’s cloudy.

While we all like the way we look when we have a tan, whether caused by sun or a tanning booth, the UV rays that cause tanning age our skin more quickly and increase our risk of skin cancer. About one in five people will develop skin cancer in his or her lifetime.

Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA rays, which cause aging of skin, and UVB, which cause sunburn. Find a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher and use it every day you are outdoors. When getting in water, use a water-resistant brand and apply at least every two hours.

Don’t forget your ears and your scalp, especially if you are losing your natural protection on top. Use lip balm with a SPF of 30 to protect your lips. For infants less than six months, it is best to keep skin covered, with appropriate precautions for overheating. Enjoy your summer, but do it safely.

Michael Atwood, M.D., CHIE, is the vice president of medical affairs and chief medical officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas. He is a board certified family physician and an American Academy of Family Physicians fellow.

Note: Since the date of this publication, Dr. Atwood has retired from BCBSKS.

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