Exposed! Sun Safety for Sporting Events

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March 20, 2015


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This post is available in: Spanish

Springtime in South Florida is welcomed in March by many marquee sporting events held in Miami and surrounding communities.  The World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral, for instance, attracts thousands of golf enthusiasts and top-notch players to sunny South Florida.  Similarly, Miami Open Tennis at Crandon Park Tennis Center in Key Biscayne, Fla., this month will have tennis players and fans enduring hours in the sun.

While all that fun in the sun is part of the South Florida culture, so are sunburn, sun damage, premature aging and skin cancer, unfortunately.

As the official medical provider for these two sporting events, Baptist Health has tapped dermatologist Alysa Herman, M.D., a micrographic skin surgeon experienced with the Mohs technique and affiliated with South Miami Hospital, Baptist Hospital and Doctors Hospital, to hold clinics to check players’ skin and offer advice on proper sun protection.  She says what goes for the players also goes for spectators – and not just during these events, but year around.

“Sun damage to our skin – including premature aging, wrinkles, red and brown spots, and skin cancer – happen over long periods of time,” she said.  “It’s the quantity of cumulative exposure we receive throughout our lives that leads us to these problems, so each sunburn and suntan we get contributes to our lifetime risk.”

In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation reports that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during his or her life, and more new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancers combined.

These statistics and her growing up in the tropical climate of the Bahamas inspired Dr. Herman’s career and her passion to help people prevent damaging exposure to the sun.

“I like being outdoors, enjoying all that the South Florida sports and culture scene has to offer,” she said.  “I don’t tell people to shun the sun, but I encourage them to protect themselves, especially when planning to be outdoors for long periods of time.”

Her advice is simple: Wear a sunscreen with a minimum of an SPF30 rating and protective clothing, including hats and sunglasses.  The sunscreen should be “broad-spectrum,” meaning it protects against both ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays, and should be reapplied at least every two hours.

Dr. Herman recognizes that men, especially, reject sunscreen because of its smell and texture.  But, she says, there are so many brands and formulas that men need to experiment to find the one they can best tolerate and are willing to use daily.

For women, who are used to “anointing themselves” with lotions, creams and moisturizers, it’s easier to form a habit of daily sunscreen use.  Plus, Dr. Herman says, women want to retain their youthfulness, of which repeated sun exposure robs them.

“I tell my patients to put their sunscreen by their toothpaste and place samples or travel-sized bottles everywhere – in their cars, purses and gym bags – so if they run out of the house without applying it, they have no excuse not to rub some on,” she said.

Dr. Herman stresses that incidental sun exposure in the car, driving to and from work everyday, adds to that cumulative sun exposure that contributes to an increased skin cancer risk.

“People don’t have to be sitting for hours on the beach, by the pool or at a sporting event to wind up with skin damage or skin cancer,” she said.  “Make sunscreen a part of your everyday routine.  Then, when you have the opportunity to enjoy an outdoor activity like a golf tournament, you’re prepared and protected.”

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