Sunning safely: Skin protection is recommended, especially in western Colorado |

Sunning safely: Skin protection is recommended, especially in western Colorado

Christoper Lepisto, N.D.
Free Press Health Columnist

Summer weather has finally arrived, which probably comes to you as a mix of joy for the end of cold and rainy nights and caution for the burning rays of the sun.

The safest time to get sun on your skin (all of your skin, ideally) is as early and late in the day as possible. Most but the most sensitive of skin can tolerate 10-20 minutes at this time to jump-start vitamin D production. Thereafter, it really is safest to just cover up. Those of you who enjoy the river or watersports know the importance of coverage beyond sunscreen as it simply washes off given enough time. Sunscreens are generally chemical in nature so the sunblocks are best (containing white zinc oxide or other crushed minerals). You should look a bit like a ghost!

Of greater concern is the chemical reaction that happens between DEET and sunscreens, which may produce carcinogenic substances. Thicker clothing works pretty well for mosquitoes and no see-ums as well.

It’s the accumulation of burns over time that produce the greatest risk for skin cancers down the road. Because melanoma and basal cell carcinomas of the skin are so aggressive, you should monitor any suspicious moles, patches or bumps and definitely check in with your doctor. In medicine, we use the rule of ABCDs to indicate findings of greater concern:

1. Asymmetry — asymmetrical appearances

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2. Border — irregular borders

3. Color — odd colors like red or black

4. Diameter — large spots (greater than a dime)

As a Minnesota farm wife, my grandmother always covered her skin throughout her life. She ended up with the clearest, baby-soft skin that I had ever seen on a 92-year old woman. “Cover up” is a good thing to remember when jumping into a western Colorado summer.

Christopher Lepisto, a Free Press health columnist, graduated as a naturopathic doctor (N.D.) from Bastyr University in Seattle, Wash. He is a native of Grand Junction and opened his practice here in 2004. Previously, Lepisto lived and worked in New Zealand, where he developed a special interest in indigenous herbal medicines. For more information, visit or call 970-250-4104.

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