Jun 01, 2015 1:00 AM

Author: Elisabeth Renda

Endurance athletes can often overlook the heightened risk prolonged sun exposure can have on the skin. Even if they’ve listened to their parents and put sunscreen on before heading out it doesn’t always protect them for as long as they think. So what do you get when you mix an endurance athlete with a dermatologist? Some rock solid advise on how to protect yourself.

University of Utah dermatology specialist Bethany Lewis, MD is arguably the fastest female ultra-marathon runner in the state. She regularly wins races, sets new records and crushes the competition. Dr. Lewis is passionate about dermatologic education and as someone who spends hours in the sunlight training and racing she has to take her own advice to heart when she heads out.

“Finishing your runs before 10am or starting them after 4pm is the best option to avoid damage. Those in-between hours are when the sun is most intense and harmful.”

When it comes to cloudy days 80% of the suns UV rays still make it through the clouds Dr. Lewis stressed. So you don’t get to take the fall or winter off from applying sunscreen before you head out.

“If running during those peak hours is unavoidable you have to be diligent to protect yourself fully. Wear a hat and sunglasses and bring sunscreen with you on runs over an hour. If it’s an especially hot run and you are sweating more than usual, reapply at least every hour.”

A shot glass amount of sunscreen is generally enough to cover the whole body Dr. Lewis explained. Even water resistant sunscreen only lasts about 40-80 minutes. SPF should be 30 or higher and check the label to ensure it is broad spectrum and protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

“Running should be an adventure,” Dr. Lewis added. “Don’t let possible skin damage scare you away from an amazing sport. That risk is only valid if you aren’t being careful. If you prepare correctly and make the right decisions you can stay sun safe.”

Elisabeth Renda

Elisabeth Renda handles communications for the Department of Dermatology at University of Utah Health Care.

running skin cancer

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