Some cancer treatments cause the skin to be more sensitive to sunlight. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation puts you at risk for very intense sunburns, so it is generally advised to avoid any sun exposure. You should be even more careful if you are undergoing radiation therapy, as chronic radiodermatitis may occur, in some cases even several years after your treatment.
UVAs & UVBs: Two Good Reasons to Protect your Skin
The sun produces several types of ultraviolet rays. Although UVs represent only a tiny proportion of the sun rays that reach the Earth, they are very powerful. There are several types of UV rays: UVCs, which are filtered out by the ozone layer, and UVAs and UVBs, which reach the surface.
UVAs are present year-round and represent 95% of the UVs that reach the Earth’s surface. They can penetrate the skin deeply, down to dermal cells. UVAs can alter cells in the long term and lead to photoaging, sun allergies (redness, itching), pigmentary disorders (spots, pregnancy mask). The damages caused by overexposure to the sun can lead to the development of skin cancer.
UVBs represent 5% of the UV rays that reach us. They are very high-energy and though they are stopped by clouds and glass, they can penetrate the epidermis. These rays can give you a tan, but also a burn (sunburns), allergic reactions, and skin cancer. This is why it is important to protect your skin both from UVAs and UVBs.
Moreover, some cancer treatments cause your skin to be more sensitive to sunlight. Therefore, even low amounts of sun exposure can lead to adverse effects.
Your daily protection during treatments
UVAs are present year-round, in every place and every season. Even on overcast days they penetrate the dermis and may cause irreversible damage to the skin. This is why it is recommended to use a cream with sufficient protection factor every day.
Some adverse effects of treatments (rash, inflammation, dryness, alteration of the cutaneous barrier, hyperpigmentation) may worsen with sun exposure. This is why it is essential to protect your skin.
Prefer hypo-allergenic protection products formulated for sensitive skin and that feel pleasant to apply to your skin, since it is important to protect it every day.
From the beginning of your treatment to a year after it ends, you should use a sun protection product that includes UVA and UVB filters with high protection factors in order to protect your skin, which is weakened by the treatments.
Ask your medical team for advice. Your doctor will be able to tell you when you may apply any given product based on your skin’s condition. In some cases, strict avoidance of sun exposure may be recommended for the time being.
In the event of prolonged exposure
Prolonged exposure is any kind of continuous exposure, such as outdoor activities, time at the beach or in the mountains. You must take a few precautions in such cases.
Avoid any exposure between noon and 4 PM, when the sun is at its zenith. If you cannot avoid this, protect your skin by wearing clothing (long-sleeved tee-shirt and trousers/pants), sunglasses, a wide brim hat or a cap.
Insofar as it is possible to do so, plan to do any outdoor work early in the morning or late in the afternoon, and work in the shade. Parasols, buildings, trees, awnings, etc., may be used to protect your skin against direct sunrays.
Choose your sunscreen in cream, gel or oil form with a 50+ SPF with balanced UVA protection UVA protection.
Apply this product after your moisturizer, without forgetting your ears, lips, front and back of your neck, palms of your hands, soles of your feet, and your scalp, if necessary, as these zones are frequently neglected.
Re-apply every two hours on all exposed areas if you are doing outdoor activities.
Banish indoor tanning for good.
Source SFD (http://www.sfdermato.org/)