Stephanie Smith Cooney, Pharm.D.
Summer days hopefully mean lots of sunshine. But as the old saying goes, “too much of a good thing”….can mean…sunburn. Or even skin cancer. Most people, according to a recent survey, buy sunscreen and use it to do just this-prevent sunburn and skin cancer. Most of us assume that the higher the SPF, the better the protection, but there’s a big detail we may not be paying attention to. While the SPF, or sun protection factor, of a sunscreen product is important, of equal, or even greater importance is the protection the product provides. Broad-spectrum protection means the product protects against UV-A and UV-B radiation , both which can cause skin cancer. While sunscreen labeling can often be confusing, focus on two things: the SPF of the product and that it is broad-spectrum. A high SPF sunscreen is not useful if it doesn’t have broad-spectrum protection.
Sunscreens work by absorbing and/or reflecting UVA and UVB rays. Because there are multiple ingredients that do these jobs, if one product isn’t tolerated, it is best to try another option or contact your health professional for assistance. There is much confusion about SPF and what it means. Be sure to apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is at least 15 SPF. A common misconception is that 30 SPF products provide double the protection of 15 SPF. Instead, while a 15 SPF product may protect from 93% of UVB radiation, a 30 SPF product could provide 97% protection, when used properly, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Wearing sunscreen is an excellent way to lower your skin cancer risk, but that alone isn’t enough. Staying inside during the peak hours of the day, typically between 10am and 4pm, is advised, as is covering up when in the sun. Don’t forget eye protection too, ensuring that your sunglasses provide UV-A and UV-B protection. Importantly, avoid indoor tanning. While we think of summertime as the most important for sun protection, sun damage can happen at anytime of year, and without exposure to direct sunlight. Excess sun exposure happens on cloudy days too.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and melanoma is the deadliest type of skin cancer. Scarier yet, the rates of melanoma have doubled over the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Most skin cancers (over 90%) are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which causes skin cell damage. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your risk for skin cancer and consider preventative screening. Most importantly, protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. Afterall, fair is the new tan. Have a wonderful summer!
The following list is adapted from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
No matter what type of care you require, you are sure to benefit from following the tips contained in this list.
Tips to Help Prevent Medical Errors:
Medical errors can occur anywhere in the health care system: In hospitals, clinics, surgery centers, doctors' offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, and patients' homes. Errors can involve medicines, surgery, diagnosis, equipment, or lab reports. These tips tell what you can do to get safer care.
What You Can Do to Stay Safe
The best way you can help to prevent errors is to be an active member of your health care team. That means taking part in every decision about your health care. Research shows that patients who are more involved with their care tend to get better results.
1 Make sure that all of your providers know about every medicine you are taking. This includes prescription and over-the-counter medicines and dietary supplements, such as vitamins and herbs.
2 Bring all of your medicines and supplements to your doctor visits. "Brown bagging" your medicines can help you and your doctor talk about them and find out if there are any problems. It can also help your doctor keep your records up to date and help you get
better quality care.
3 Make sure your doctor knows about any allergies and adverse reactions you have had to medicines. This can help you to avoid getting a medicine that could harm you.
4 When your doctor writes a prescription for you, make sure you can read it. If you cannot read your doctor's handwriting, your pharmacist might not be able to either.
5 Ask for information about your medicines in terms you can understand—both when your medicines are prescribed and when you get them:
◦ What is the medicine for?
◦ How am I supposed to take it and for how long?
◦ What side effects are likely? What do I do if they occur?
◦ Is this medicine safe to take with other medicines or dietary supplements I am taking?
◦ What food, drink, or activities should I avoid while taking this medicine?
6 When you pick up your medicine from the pharmacy, ask: Is this the medicine that my doctor prescribed?
7 If you have any questions about the directions on your medicine labels, ask. Medicine labels can be hard to understand. For example, ask if "four times daily" means taking a dose every 6 hours around the clock or just during regular waking hours.
8 Ask your pharmacist for the best device to measure your liquid medicine. For example, many people use household teaspoons, which often do not hold a true teaspoon of liquid. Special devices, like marked syringes, help people measure the right dose.
9 Ask for written information about the side effects your medicine could cause. If you know what might happen, you will be better prepared if it does or if something unexpected happens.
For any other questions you may have, be sure to speak with your local pharmacist right away.
The Gatti Team
Information, tips and more from the Gatti Pharmacists and staff.