It seems like summer is finally here to stay! We’re enjoying the longer days and warm, sunny weather. If you’re in the middle of chemo or radiation, your summer plans might look a little different this year.
Even if you’re sneaking in a patio nap instead of spending a day on the beach, getting outside is a great way to boost your mood. The most important thing is to make sure that you manage your sun exposure during your cancer treatment.
Here’s how sun exposure affects the body during cancer treatment:
Chemotherapy & Immunotherapy
Does this treatment make the skin sensitive to the sun?
|Yes; most chemotherapies and immunotherapies make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.||
Yes; radiation is known to make the body more sensitive to sunlight.
|Yes; scars from surgery are very sensitive to sunlight. The rest of your skin should be unaffected.|
|Where will my skin be sensitive to the sun?||
All over your body. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy can make the skin much more sensitive to the sun, and more likely to burn.
|On the parts of the body that were exposed to the radiation treatment. Treated parts of the body are very likely to burn if exposed to direct sunlight.||
Your scars will be very sensitive to sunlight. Sun exposure can change the pigmentation of your scars and can slow down the skin’s healing process.
How long will my skin be sensitive for?
|Up to 2 months post-treatment||1+ years after treatment has ended. Unlike chemo, radiation can cause lasting skin sensitivity.||
At least 1 month post-surgery, and up to 1 year beyond that.
Should I avoid sun exposure during cancer treatment?
It’s true that the vast majority of cancer treatments cause skin sensitivity. Because of this, direct sun exposure during chemotherapy and radiation is not advisable. This doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the sun completely, but you will need to take special precautions to avoid becoming burnt and dehydrated.
We’ve made a little list of strategies to help you stay cool and sun safe all summer long!
10 Tips for Managing Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment:
1. Avoid the Sun During Peak Hours
The sun’s rays are strongest from 10:00am to 3:00pm. If you can, try to avoid being in direct sunlight during the middle of day. Instead, schedule your outdoor time for mornings or evenings. If you have to be outside during the “peak period” of sun exposure, make sure you choose a shady spot to relax in.
2. Stay Covered Up
One of the best ways to protect your skin from sun exposure is to cover up in UV-resistant clothing. Regular clothing can work, too, but keep in mind that not all shirts and beach kaftans are created equal. If they’re too thin, or partially see-through, they won’t block the sun’s rays well enough to protect you.
3. Wear a Fun Summer Hat
A big, wide-brimmed hat is a great way to keep your head, neck and shoulders safe from the sun. If you’re experiencing hair loss, try wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat with a light cotton headscarf underneath. The cotton will protect your scalp from the itchy straw, and you can tie a lovely tail out the back for some added colour.
4. Apply Sunscreen
You should apply sunscreen regularly if you know you’re going to be out in the sun. Some people like to apply it first thing in the morning so that they’re prepared right from the start. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Plan to reapply your sunscreen regularly – especially after swimming or sweating. Speak with your doctor about suitable sunscreen brands. If you’ve had radiotherapy or have very sensitive skin from cancer treatment, your doctor will be able to help you find a sunscreen that’s good for sensitive skin.
5. Sit in the Shade
If you can sit in the shade, you’ll be cooler and less likely to burn. If there’s no shade available where you’ll be going, consider bringing a portable sun umbrella with you, or setting up a tent or sun cover. You’ll be more comfortable and safe from the sun.
6. Stay Hydrated
Not only can cancer treatment make the skin sensitive, it can also make you prone to fatigue. Staying hydrated will help to keep you alert and awake in hot weather. Drink lots of liquids, and try eating fresh fruit to keep your fluid levels up. It will also help to keep you cool.
7. Try a Face Spritz
A gentle scalp or face spritz can help to cool down your body and moisturise your skin. You can try making your own at home, or purchase this super-hydrating spray from Jennifer Young. Here’s an insider tip: keep your spritz in the fridge for extra-cool relief!
8. Wear Light, Cool Clothing
Linen and cotton fabrics breathe well and will help to wick away sweat from your body. Choose clothes made from these fabrics, and stick to light colours to stay as cool as possible. Time to break out the beach shirts and sundresses!
9. Take a Quick Dip
A cool shower or quick dip in the pool will help to lower your body temperature and provide some relief from the heat. If the pool water has chlorine in it, be sure to rinse off after your swim. This will prevent the chlorine from making your skin itchy or dry.
10. Sleep With a Cold Pillow
We all know how lovely a cold pillow can feel – especially on a very warm evening. The Gel’O Cool Pillow Mat can help you to keep your pillow cool all night long. Just chill in the refrigerator and place on your pillow for lasting comfort.
Although you might be more sensitive to the sun than you were before your treatment, you can still enjoy the beautiful summer weather. All it takes is a little bit of preparation.
Our favourite products for keeping cool with cancer:
Gel’O Pillow Mat
Cool & Refresh Spritz
Keeping Cool Kit