Protecting Yourself in the Hawaii Sun

By Kevin L. Dawson, MD
Dr. Kevin Dawson

With summer in full swing it’s a great reminder to protect yourself from the harmful rays of the sun.  According to the EPA, skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S.; and melanoma has the third fastest rising death rate among cancers in Hawaii.  All skin types are at risk, so here’s what you need to know to reduce your risk:

What to wear in the sun:

  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Sun shirt
  • Rash guard
  • Clothes that cover your arms and legs.
  • There’s no significant difference in UV protection with types of clothing materials.  Thicker is better, but thin material is adequate protection for most people.

When out in the sun:

  • Seek shade, especially during peak sun hours from 10 am – 3 pm.
  • Use sunscreen.  Choose a product that is SPF 30 or greater with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection.  Make sure it is water resistant, if swimming or exercising.

The proper way to use sunscreen:

  • Apply everywhere.
  • Re-apply every 2 hours or whenever you get wet.
  • Check the expiration date.
  • Apply liberally – you need at least 1 ounce to cover your body!
  • Spray sunscreens should appear wet on your skin after application.

Some people say that sunscreens cause cancer, or are dangerous.  Are sunscreens safe? Yes.

  • Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S.
  • Going unprotected is much more of a health risk than ANY sunscreen.
  • Most safety concerns are unfounded, but chemical sunscreens are easy to avoid.
  • Zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are ALWAYS safe alternatives.

Detecting skin cancer – what should you look for on your skin?

  • Dark spots with the ABCDE signs of melanoma:
    • A = asymmetry
    • B = border (irregular)
    • C = color (irregular)
    • D = diameter (pea-sized or larger)
    • E = evolution (recent changes or growth)
  • Any spot that frequently bleeds or scabs.
  • Any wound that doesn’t heal.
  • Get a regular screening by your doctor

Dr. Kevin Dawson is the Chief of Dermatology at The Queen’s Medical Center.

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