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Photo by Katharine Schroeder | Sunbathers enjoy picture-perfect conditions at Town Beach in Southold

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO Sunbathers enjoy picture-perfect conditions at Town Beach in Southold on Sunday, although few ventured into the still-chilly Long Island Sound waters.

The Fourth of July weekend is here.

Locals and visitors alike are touring the grapevines and splashing into bay waters – marking the official kickoff of summer on the North Fork.

While everyone is out having fun in the sun, it’s important to remember to protect your skin.

“It is the largest organ of the body, and the gateway into your internal system,” said Dr. Meyerson, a dermatologist in Riverhead with 16 years of experience.

Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers, accounting for almost half of all cancers in the U.S., according to the American Cancer Society.

Most people have heard of melanoma, the most harmful type of skin cancer, but there are several other types that can develop too, he said.

Sun damage is caused by the sun’s UVA waves, which cause wrinkling and sunspots, and UVB rays, which are what burn your skin, according to the American Cancer Society.

“It has been know that UVB are the very damaging rays. But in the last 5 to 10 years, it was found that the cumulative exposure to UVA rays is supposedly just as bad,” Dr. Meyerson said.

One interesting fact, UVB rays are blocked by glass, however UVA rays are not, he said.

“We see a lot more skin damage on the left side of the face or arm because of all those years of driving,” he said.

So whether you’re out for a joy ride or digging your toes in the sand –sunscreen is a necessity.

When choosing a sunscreen, look for one that offers protection from both types of UVA and UVB rays.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has changed sunscreen labeling language from “UVA and UVB protection” to “broad spectrum,” however they both mean about the same thing, Dr. Meyerson said.

The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing an SPF of at least 30, higher than its initial recommendation of SPF 15, he said.

“When moving from SPF 15 to SPF 30, we think there is a significant increase in protection factor,” Dr. Meyerson said.

Protection from SPFs higher than 30 does not increase as notably, he said.

Lotions, creams and sprays are each OK in his opinion, but need to be applied properly, he said.

“I think they are all good but there is a misconception about sprays, they are easier to put on but people don’t realize they still need to be rubbed in,” he said. “They spray little dots, and there are openings between those dots. You’re going to have areas that are missed.”

When swimming or sweating for more than 15 minutes, be sure to reapply, he said.

But the sun’s rays are not the only trigger causing skin cancer; it can develop on parts of the body, which have not been exposed the sun, he explained.

“Know your moles. Knows your growths,” Dr. Meyerson said. “You want to do self exams. If you see anything changing in size, shape, or color or a new growth, you should  get it checked.”

“Early detection is vital, especially in dermatology,” he said.