Skin cancer is the most common—and one of the most preventable—cancers in the United States. Here’s how you can protect yourself.
By Barbara Blasko, M.D.
As equestrians, we spend most of our time outside—usually in a hurry!
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. People of all skin tones get skin cancer. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and hopefully after reading this, you will be armed with a bit more knowledge on how to protect yourself as well as prevent the inevitable aging that sun damage causes.
The Sun’s core is about 27 million degrees Fahrenheit. It is the most important source of energy for life on Earth. So the sun is HOT, but we need it to live!
When I grew up riding in the 1980s, sun protection was not really mainstream, and so, unfortunately, myself and many others suffered from skin damage. Fortunately times have changed, and sun protection is now a hot topic.
The sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m, and it is advisable to seek shade as much as possible then. That being said, we know that it’s hard to do when riding and showing. So, what can we do?
1. Apply sunscreen
Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember to reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
2. Wear sun-protective clothing
Wear a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.
3. Use extra caution
Water, snow, and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Most people only apply 25-50% of the recommended amount of sunscreen. However, to fully cover their body, most adults need about one ounce of sunscreen—or enough to fill a shot glass. Apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin that isn’t covered by clothing.
Apply the sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply every two hours while outdoors, or after swimming or sweating.
Applying only in sunny weather is another common mistake. It is estimated that only 20% of Americans use sunscreen on cloudy days. However, the sun emits harmful UV rays all year long. Even on cloudy days, up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate your skin. To protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer, apply sunscreen every time you are outside, even on cloudy days.
WHAT TYPE OF SUNSCREEN
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends broad spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30. Broad-spectrum sunscreen provides protection from both UVA and UVB rays. Sunlight consists of two types of harmful rays that reach the earth—UVA rays and UVB rays. Overexposure to either can lead to skin cancer. In addition to causing skin cancer, here’s what each of these rays do:
– UVA rays (or aging rays) can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.
– UVB rays (or burning rays) are the primary cause of sunburn, and are blocked by window glass.
Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays. Higher-number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s UVB rays, but no sunscreen can block 100 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.
It is also important to remember that high-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs. A high-number SPF does not allow you to spend additional time outdoors without reapplication. Sunscreens should be reapplied approximately every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days.
My personal favorite sunscreen line is Supergoop!, with close favorites being Image PREVENTION+ daily ultimate protection moisturizer SPF 50, and REVlSION Intellishade SPF 45 Tinted Moisturizer.
Wear sun-protective clothing, including a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.
Fortunately, many great equestrian brands such as Essex, Ariat, and Kastel Denmark make apparel with UV protection. And, of course, we can’t forget those great wide-brimmed hats, such as Riata, that are so popular at the horse shows.
Hopefully this column has given you a bit of insight into preventative skincare. ShowMD carries Supergoop! sunscreen and has a custom IV treatment designed especially for your skin. We offer the gold standard for medical grade skin products provided by experienced and educated clinicians that are based on science and clinical studies.
Visit www.Showmd.org for more information.
Barb Blasko, MD
Dr. Barb Blasko is a Board-Certified Emergency Medicine physician with 22 years of experience working in multiple Emergency Departments throughout the US. She is a passion-ate entrepreneur who has created ShowMD to improve the lives of her patients in equestrian settings. Her expertise spans medical fields including specialty in clinical strategy, Emergency Medicine, telemedicine and biomedical informatics. With her own horses, she actively competes in USEF show jumping competitions across the west coast, and truly understands the needs of equestrian athletes.
*This story was originally published in the October/November 2022 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!