Written by Christina Falahee
During the summer, many of us are excited to spend time outdoors after being cooped up all winter. It’s during these warm months we spend most of our time outdoors. Although the sun is a great source of vitamin D, moderation is key.
July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month which is a great way to shine a light on the effects of UV rays and spread the importance of sun safety. UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer in the United States. It can cause eye damage including cataracts and macular degeneration.
Who are Most Susceptible?
Had skin cancer before
Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
Have many moles, irregular moles or large moles
Have freckles and burn before tanning
Have fair skin, blue or green eyes, or blond, red, or light brown hair
Live or vacation at high altitudes (the strength of UV rays increases with elevation)
Live or vacation in tropical or subtropical climates
Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
Spend a lot of time outdoors
Have certain autoimmune diseases, such as lupus
Have certain inherited conditions that increase your risk of skin cancer, such as xeroderma pigmentosum or nevoid basal cell carcinoma syndrome (Gorlin syndrome).
Have a medical condition that weakens your immune system, such as infection with HIV
Have had an organ transplant
Take medicines that lower or suppress your immune system
Take medicines that make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.
How Do I Protect Myself from UV Rays?
Seek Shade: UV light is the strongest between the hours of 10am and 4pm. If you are unsure how strong the sun’s rays are, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s rays are the strongest, and it’s important to protect yourself.
Protect Your Skin with Clothing: Clothes provide different levels of UV protection. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric.
Read Your Sunscreen Labels: Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection protect against both UVA and UVB rays and with sun protection factor (SPF) provides UVB ray protection. Values of 30 or higher are recommend. Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming and sweating, even if it’s labeled “water resistant”. Be sure to check the expiration date on the sunscreen. Most sunscreen products are good for at least 2 or 3 years, but you may need to shake the bottle to remix the ingredients.
Wear Your Sunglasses: Effective sunglasses should block glare and 99 – 100% of UV rays and have a wraparound shape to protect the eyes from all angles.
Routinely Check Your Skin for Any Changes: Birthmarks, new moles and marks should be consistently examined for alterations in size, shape and color or if they look and feel differently from other moles and marks on your body.