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Here Comes the Sun

Regardless of the season in St. Louis, we must be aware of the possible health hazards that can come from over exposure to the sun.

Dr. Thomas Farrell, medical director of St. Luke's Urgent Care Centers, warns that sun safety is nothing to take lightly. "Too often, people don't consider what excessive sun exposure is doing to their skin and overall health," he says. "Simple steps can be taken to protect ourselves and still maintain summer fun."

Sun damage, which accumulates over years, is hazardous to our bodies. People with excessive sun exposure will eventually experience changes to their skin such as darkening of freckles, liver spots, skin thickening and deeper and wider wrinkles. If the exposure is severe enough or continues, the risk for skin cancer (basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma) is substantially increased.

Although we should be aware of our sun exposure at all times, Dr. Farrell warns us that certain situations are worse than others:
  1. Be aware of peak hours
    The sun's intensity is strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. During this short time, the sun emits about two-thirds of its energy for the entire day. If possible, avoid outdoor activities during this peak time.
  2. Avoid reflected sunlight
    Water, sand and even snow contribute to your exposure. This reflected sunlight can nearly double exposure to the harmful effect of the sun.
  3. Protect yourself in high altitudes
    "The higher you go, the higher your exposure is to the sun," says Dr. Farrell. He explains that for every 1,000 feet above sea level, the atmosphere's ability to filter out the harmful effects of the sun decreases by about 5%.
  4. Consider your location
    The closer you are to the equator, the closer you are to the sun and its intensity.
So, how can we avoid the harmful effects of the sun and still take advantage of the summer months? Dr. Farrell suggests the following:
If you suspect that you have sun damage, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist. To find a dermatologist, call St. Luke's Physician Referral Service at 314-205-6060.