Many Western Pennsylvania residents may have reached the point where they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
After 14 stressful months,many people finally are starting to make plans to get together. Eventually, the weather will just have to cooperate.
“I know we’re all really excited to get out there and socialize again, but just don’t forget about your sunscreen, even on a cloudy day.” Dr. Christie Regula said. “And the most important thing is to use enough of it, so you’ve really got to lather it on, and to reapply it every hour and a half.”
As a dermatologist, the Mt. Lebanon resident and Hopwood native repeatedly sees the negative effects of overexposure to ultraviolet light, and she constantly prompts people to protect their skin against it.
For those who aren’t inclined to take the threat of too much sun seriously, Regula said one out of every five Americans will be diagnosed with some type of skin cancer. And the deadliest, melanoma, has an estimate of more than 100,000 new cases nationally in 2021, she said.
Regula said when seeking a sunscreen, people should use a broad-spectrum product, containing both physical and chemical blockers against UV light, with a sun protection factor – look for “SPF” on the label – of at least 30.
And that doesn’t necessarily mean a special trip to the store.
Regula and Dr. Justin Vujevich, her colleague at Vujevich Dermatology Associates in Scott Township, started the nonprofit Sun Smart Pittsburgh five years ago with the mission of promoting skin cancer prevention. Since then, they’ve been providing complimentary public sunscreen dispensers at a growing number of Western Pennsylvania locations.
“We have a little bit of expansion this year, which was supposed to happen last year but couldn’t,” Regula said. “So we’re excited about that.”
The new locations include recreational areas in Cecil, North Strabane and Ross townships, and along the Montour Trail in Peters Township, to go along with dispensers in 27 city of Pittsburgh parks, Mt. Lebanon’s Main Park and other venues.
Among Sun Smart Pittsburgh’s partners is the Pittsburgh Melanoma Foundation, founded by South Hills residents Jessica Rogowicz and Lauren Simko.
“They have really great volunteers and very dedicated folks,” Regula said. “We have been able to, with their help, purchase and dedicate a couple of dispensers to people who have unfortunately lost their lives to melanoma, in remembrance of them.”
Sun Smart Pittsburgh also has mobile sunscreen dispensers to offer protection, featured pre-pandemic at events including the Melanoma Foundation’s annual 5K Run/Walk, which is being held virtually through June 1 this year, and the Fayette County Fair.
From an educational aspect, Regula and Vujevich are working on programming at schools, where a change in Pennsylvania law no longer requires nurses to apply students’ sunscreen.
As for additional sunscreen dispensers, people who are interested in providing protection for their communities can apply for Sun Smart Pittsburgh grants.
“You can fill out a proposed location for the dispenser, along with some other details about why you would like it and how many people use the location,” Regula said. “The dispensers don’t need a ton of maintenance, but we do need volunteers to monitor the dispensers, fill the dispensers and make sure they’re in good working order.”