Radiation therapy and some types of chemotherapy used for breast cancer treatment can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. When it’s cloudy outside, you may not even think about protecting your skin against the sun. Clouds have an important role in UV rays based on their composition. Things like density, pollution, and location of the cloud in the atmosphere all play a part in determining how much of the sun’s harmful rays are blocked. During treatment, you need to be especially vigilant about protecting yourself from the sun.
On the flip side, don’t let your fear of sun exposure stop you from enjoying time outdoors on a sunny day. The sun also raises your mood and vitamin D level. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which is essential for good bone health. Vitamin D also helps the immune, muscle, and nervous systems function properly. So, if you’re going to spend some time in the sun, be sure to take some easy safety measures.
Five Simple Sun Precautions
- Sunscreen. Don’t skimp on sunscreen. Winter or summer, you should use a high factor sun screen (SPF30 or higher) and use it often. Reapply every 2 hours and make sure it’s waterproof.
- Sunshine Exposure. Short periods of sun exposure are best. Avoid peak radiation hours and reflective surfaces. You may want to limit the amount of time you’re in the sun between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. and/or avoid the beach and the pool during your time of treatment.
- Protective Clothing. Wear long sleeved shirts and long pants. Dark clothing and tightly woven fabric block more sun than whites or loosely woven fabrics. Sun protective clothing is also available and recommended during this time.
- Hats are a Must. Wear a hat that shades your face, neck and ears. Or better yet, stay in the shade.
- Sunglasses Always. Your eyes may experience sensitivity such as irritation, dryness, redness and more during treatment. Wearing sunglasses with 100% UV absorption is always highly recommended.
Sun protection is especially important during breast cancer treatment. It is also wise to be especially careful regarding sun exposure for the first few years after treatment is completed. When you go outside in the sun, just take a moment or two to think and prepare. Ask yourself, do I have sunscreen on? Do I have a hat and sunglasses? Should I bring some extra clothing with me to layer-up during the day? Be prepared and bring precautions against the suns harmful rays. You’ll be glad that you did!