Sun Safety Awareness
UV radiation (Ultraviolet radiation): Invisible rays that are part of the energy that comes from the sun and man-made sources that can burn the skin and cause skin cancer. UV radiation is made up of three types of rays -- ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC).
The skin is the largest organ of the body. It has many functions, such as:
• Covering the internal organs and protecting them from injury
• Preventing the loss of too much water and other fluids
• Helping control body temperature
• Protecting the rest of the body from ultraviolet (UV) rays
Fact: Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. About 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma, a more dangerous type of skin cancer, will account for more than 73,000 cases of skin cancer in 2015 according to the American Cancer Society.
Risk factors for skin cancer include:
• Too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (from sunlight or tanning beds)
• Pale skin (easily sunburned, doesn’t tan much or at all, natural red or blonde hair)
• You or members of your family have had skin cancers
• Multiple or unusual moles
• Severe sunburns in the past
• Weakened immune system
• Older age (although melanomas can also occur in younger people)
What are the signs and symptoms of skin cancer?
Skin cancer can be found early, and both people and their doctors play important roles in finding skin cancer. If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor:
• Any change on your skin, especially in the size or color of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth (even if it has no color)
• Scaliness, roughness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way an area of skin looks
• A sore that doesn’t heal
• The spread of pigmentation (color) beyond its border, such as dark coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark
• A change in sensation, such as itchiness, tenderness, or pain
Can skin cancer be prevented?
The best ways to lower your risk of skin cancer are to avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety. You can still exercise and enjoy the outdoors while using sun safety at the same time. Here are some ways to be sun safe:
• Seek shade, especially in the middle of the day (between 10 am and 4 pm) when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
• Slip on a shirt: Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you’re out in the sun.
• Wear sunscreen: Use sunscreen and lip balm with broad spectrum protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen (about a palmful) to all areas of unprotected skin. Reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling dry, or sweating.
• Wear a hat: Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck. If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.
• Wear sunglasses: Wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB absorption to protect your eyes and the surrounding skin.
• Sunscreen doesn’t protect from all UV rays, so don’t use sunscreen as a way to stay out in the sun longer.
• Follow these practices to protect your skin even on cloudy or overcast days. UV rays can travel through clouds.
• Avoid other sources of UV light. Tanning beds and sun lamps are dangerous. They damage your skin and can cause cancer
Fun Fact: Dermatologists recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, which blocks 97% of the sun’s rays. Higher number SPFs block slightly more of the sun’s rays but no sunscreen can block 100% of the sun’s rays. High-number SPFs last the same amount of time as low-number SPFs and should be applied approximately every two hours when outdoors, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating. So, there is little to no overall benefit of using a sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30.
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