Summer is here and that means days are longer and the sunlight is stronger. If you are like most people you plan to spend your days out and about, basking in the sunlight. While increased physical activity during the summer months is a great way to keep your body healthy and fit, you should be wary of harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Too much exposure to UV radiation is harmful and can cause damage, including skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed each year and more than 76,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
It is common for people to only think about protecting their skin when they are getting ready for a day at the beach, lake or pool. But sun exposure should always be on your mind. Taking steps to limit your exposure is very important in the summer months. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. If the proper steps are taken you can greatly reduce your risks and exposure to causes of skin cancer.
Most people are familiar with sunscreen and use it on a regular basis, but it is important to know how to use it properly. Be generous when applying sunscreen. You should use about one ounce of sunscreen for your neck, arms, legs and face. When putting it on, pay close attention to your face, ears, neck, arms, and any other areas not covered by clothing. If you’re going to wear insect repellent or makeup, put on the sunscreen first. For the best results follow the directions on the package and remember to reapply when necessary.
Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays − a higher number means more protection.
When using an SPF 30 sunscreen and applying it correctly, you get the equivalent of 1 minute of UVB rays for each 30 minutes you spend in the sun. So, 1 hour in the sun wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is the same as spending 2 minutes totally unprotected. People often do not apply enough sunscreen, so the actual protection they get is less. Be cautious of the time you spend in the sun and do not rely on just one form of protection.
When purchasing sunglasses you should make sure that they block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation. Before you buy, check the label to make sure they do. Labels that say “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” mean the glasses block at least 99% of UV rays. Glasses labeled “cosmetic” block about 70% of UV rays.
A darker tinted lens does not mean that the glasses will provide more protection. The protection actually comes from a chemical that is applied to the lenses after production.
Although you may want to do the contrary during the summer finding a spot in the shade is a very easy way to protect yourself. UV rays reach the ground all year, even on hazy days, but the strength of UV rays can be different based on the time of year and other factors.
Often times, people get sunburned when the weather is still cool because they may not be thinking about protecting themselves if it’s not hot outside. You should be especially careful on the beach or in the snow because areas with sand, snow or water reflect sunlight and increase the amount of UV radiation you receive. UV rays can even reach below the water’s surface.
If you are planning an outing, checking the UV index in the area would be a wise decision. The UV Index can usually be found in local newspaper, TV, radio, and online forecasts. It also is available on the Environmental Protection Agency’s website at epa.gov/sunwise and in a variety of smartphone apps.
Clothing can provide an added level of UV protection. It is understandable that you might want to wear shorter or lighter clothes during the summer months, but keep in mind that long-sleeved shirts, long pants and long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. Dark colors also provide more protection than light colors and tightly woven fabrics can help to block UV radiation.
In addition to wearing the appropriate style of clothing some companies now make clothing that protects against UV exposure even when wet. These sun-protective clothes may have a label listing the UV protection factor (UPF) value. The higher the UPF, the higher the protection from UV radiation.
Knowing the effects that UV radiation can have on your skin should make you more prepared and safe when enjoying the sun this summer.
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