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Dermatology Practice Today

The Expert Truth on Sun Exposure

Published May 8, 2014 7:55 AM by Debra Shelby
 A nurse practitioner student recently emailed me on the NADNP website to ask the following:

"I am curious about sun exposure. Some small amount is good for vitamin D3 synthesis. Does your organization have a general rule about how much sun exposure is ok, and what to use for protection? For example, I always encourage folks to use zinc oxide for a broad-spectrum physical block. Are all suntanning beds bad?"

I support patients being outside. It's my personal belief that we have become drastic with our rules about sun exposure and this has led us to deficiencies in vitamin D. Being outside is important to your physical and mental health. Educate patients on sun protection like sunscreen, UV-blocking clothing, and the safest times to be outdoors. Wrist bands that monitor the levels of UV radiation you are being exposed to are now available. Go out during the early morning and early evening when the sun is not as hot. Be cautious during cloudy, overcast weather. People tend to stay out longer when they don't feel direct heat, yet they are still exposed to dangerous UV rays.

When it comes to sunscreens, be particular about which brands you recommend. There has been a debate over the chemical oxybenzone; it has been linked to cancer and hormone effects. Personally, I don't like these chemicals for a number of reasons, including photodermatitis. I recommend sunscreens that contain no oxybenzone, lanolin, parabens or fragrance. My absolute favorite line of skin products are from Pharmaceutical Specialties Inc. Their Vanicream products and sunscreens are great for sensitive skin, and you can get them in a water-resistant formula. These sunscreens have zinc oxide. Please don't forget the lips! Tizo 45 SPF LipTect with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide is great.

As far as my thoughts on tanning beds, I feel that you should be 18 or older no matter what parents say. Some parents are not capable of making the right choices for their children. What is the leading cancer in the age group 15 to 29? Melanoma.........enough said.

Please review the 2014 American Academy of Dermatologists Overview on Skin Cancer

(http://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/conditions/skin-cancer), which states:

"Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years old and the second most common form of cancer for adolescents and young adults 15-29 years old. ... Exposure to tanning beds increases the risk of melanoma, especially in women aged 45 years or younger. In females 15-29 years old, the torso/trunk is the most common location for developing melanoma, which may be due to high-risk tanning behaviors."

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    Occupation: Physician assistant and nurse practitioners
    Setting: Various dermatology settings
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