It may be November, but here in Miami it’s 82 degrees under sunny skies, and the UV index is 6.
The UV index (a scale of 0 to 11) is a measurement of the strength of the ultraviolet radiation of the sun at a particular place on a given day. It estimates the risk of sunburn in midday sunlight. Public health organizations recommend using sunscreens when the UV index is 3 or higher.
A UV index of 6 is considered “high” and reinforces the need for us to wear sunscreen daily and not just in the summer months when the sun is the strongest or when we are outside swimming or playing sports. We are exposed to UV radiation even when we are driving to work. The sun’s rays penetrate the windshields of our cars, often hitting the tops of the hands on the steering wheel as well as the neck and chest.
The American Academy of Dermatology advises using a sunblock with an SPF of at least 30 and one that provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. I remind my Miami dermatology patients that sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes before going outside, since it takes time for it to sink into the skin and protect against harmful UV rays.
It is important to protect the skin daily from sun exposure, since cumulative exposure to UV radiation is responsible for skin aging and, more significantly, the development of skin cancer. Between 65% and 90% of melanoma, the most severe and life-threatening form of skin cancer, is caused by exposure to the sun.
So, regardless of the month of the year, protect yourself daily with sunscreen and protective clothing. And please, make an appointment to see a dermatologist if you notice a spot on your skin that bleeds or doesn’t heal, or if you have a mole that has recently grown or changed in color.