Practicing Sun Safety: It’s Time Mainers Take it Seriously

little girl in pool with sunscreen

Summer in Maine usually means a lot of time spent on the beach and participating in outdoor activities. This is the time that taking sun safety measures can’t be overdone.  The obvious reason is that overexposure to the sun can lead to skin cancer. In fact, based on 2014 CDC data, Maine is among the states that rank highest in U.S. melanoma deaths and our melanoma incidence rate is higher than both California and Florida! Being “hardy Mainers” who see the sun only a few months out of the year, it’s quite possible that we just don’t take it seriously. The numbers prove that our propensity to shrug it off could have dire consequences.

The Stages of Melanoma

Diagram of MelanomaSkin cancer isn’t just confined to your skin, as the name may imply. As most cancers, the skin is merely the starting place and its severity develops in stages.

  • Stage 0: The malignant tumor is localized in the epidermis – the upper layer of the skin.
  • Stage I: The tumor is still localized but is up to 2mm thick and has entered the dermis.
  • Stage II: the tumor is still localized but has increased in size and has developed an ulceration at the top. The depth of the tumor determines the severity of this stage (subclasses IIA, IIB, and IIC)
  • Stage III: The tumor has spread to regional lymph nodes. The level of lymph nodes involved determines the severity of the stage (stages IIIA, IIIB, and IIIC)
  • Stage IV: The tumor has spread outside of the regional lymph nodes to other areas of the body including distant lymph nodes, vital organs, and soft tissues. Brain metastases is one of the most common and hard-to-treat forms of Stage IV melanoma.

Your risk of developing it increases with your first serious burn. So, it’s incredibly important to start your kids on sunscreen as soon as they start spending time in the sun. When they’re old enough, make sure they know why it’s important so they eventually choose to do it on their own. And just because you’re no longer a child, does not mean it’s too late. Continued exposure increases your risk, so keep on applying!

Detection is in Plain Sight

Skin cancer is one of the only cancers you can actually see as it develops. Take advantage of that by checking your skin for abnormalities on a regular basis. Enlist the help of your doctor and partner if you have one and know your ABCDEs: the warning signs of melanoma.

A – Asymmetry. Benign moles are symmetrical. Draw a line through the middle of the mole. If the two sides do not match, it means the mole is asymmetrical and should be looked at by a doctor.
B – Border. Benign moles have smooth, even borders. Borders on a melanoma tend to be uneven.
C – Color. Benign moles are typically one color. Look for moles that are made up of a number of different colors or shades.
D – Diameter. Benign moles are smaller in diameter. Melanomas are typically larger than a quarter inch or the size of a pencil eraser.
E – Evolving. Benign moles look the same over time. If a mole starts to evolve/change in size, color, shape, elevation or if bleeding, itching or crusting develops, see a doctor.

Skin Cancer Signs - ABCDEs

Getting yearly physicals is an important part of catching sun cancer early because most doctors will look at your skin for the signs above. If they don’t, ask them to. It could mean the difference between a quick incision to remove a localized Stage 0 tumor or major surgeries, chemotherapy, etc. under treatment of Stage IV cancer.

Prevention Tips

  • Wear sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher
  • Wear UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Wear UV protective clothing. Coolibar and Columbia are among companies that offer numerous options.
  • Avoid spending time in the sun between the hours of 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.
  • Check your area’s UV Index and follow the EPA’s scale below accordingly. You can find your area’s UV forecast on sites such as The Weather Network or download the EPA’s SunWise UV Index app for either iPhone or Android devices.
  • Avoid places with bright surfaces such as sand, water, and snow which reflect UV and increase exposure. If you can’t avoid them, take extra precaution against exposure.
  • Avoid tanning and never use tanning beds.
  • Know if your medications increase your skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.

EPA’s UV Index Scale

The UV Index scale below conforms with international guidelines that were established by the World Health Organization. Find the guide at

UV Index Number Exposure Level Time to Burn Actions to Take
0-2 Low 60 minutes Low risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure for the average person.

  • Wear sunglasses on bright days
  • Apply SPF 30 sunscreen if you burn easily
3-5 Moderate 45 minutes Moderate risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure.

  • Stay in shade midday when the sun is strongest.
  • Wear protective clothing and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Apply SPF 30 sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating
6-7 High 30 minutes High risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Protection against skin and eye damage is needed.

  • Reduce time in the sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm
  • Seek shade and wear protective clothing and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Apply SPF 30 sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating
8-10 Very High 15-25 minutes Very high risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Take extra precautions because unprotected skin and eyes will be damaged and can burn quickly.

  • Reduce time in the sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm
  • Seek shade and wear protective clothing and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Apply SPF 30 sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating
11 or more Extreme 10 minutes Extreme risk of harm from unprotected sun exposure. Take all precautions because unprotected skin and eyes can burn in minutes.

  • Reduce time in the sun between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm
  • Seek shade and wear protective clothing and UV-blocking sunglasses.
  • Apply SPF 30 sunscreen every 2 hours and after swimming or sweating

Find today’s UV index for your area by entering your zip code or city and state in the box below.


About the Author

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

Coastal Pharmacy & Wellness Staff

Our staff specialties range from pharmaceuticals to nutritional health and wellness, to sports nutrition. We are here to share that knowledge. If we don't know immediately, we'll find out. Stop into the pharmacy or nutritional health and wellness department to ask questions relating to your specific needs, or send us an email.


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