Although summer is already well underway, sun safety is still as important as ever.
July is UV Safety Month, so before hitting the beach, diving into the pool, firing up the grill or going to work outdoors, take a moment to follow the steps to protect you and your family from the sun and its harmful rays. The sun and other sources — like tanning beds — emit ultraviolet radiation that causes a number of issues. These issues include skin cancer, eye and vision problems, weakened immune system and early aging of the skin. According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and more than 13,000 skin cancer deaths occur in the U.S. each year. While this information is unsettling, several steps can be taken to be safe in the sun, including:
Wear proper clothing to protect you from the sun. Examples are pants and long sleeves, broad-brim hats and sunglasses with UV protection. Make sure to check the label for UV protection when buying sunglasses. If there is not a label, do not assume they provide protection from UV rays.
Stay in the shade. Sit in well-shaded areas and avoid the sun during its strongest hours. Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the sun can do a lot of damage to your skin, so it is important to take extra precaution during these hours.
Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen. Broadspectrum means the sunscreen helps protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. Each type of UV ray affects the skin differently, but both can cause skin cancer. The FDA recommends using broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 — an SPF of 30 is even better. Also look for lip balm with SPF in it to protect your lips when out in the sun.
Reapply sunscreen throughout the day. One application of sunscreen is not enough for an entire day. A good rule of thumb is to reapply sunscreen every two hours and after being in the water or sweating heavily. Being aware of your own skin is just as important for skin cancer prevention as the steps listed above. The most important warning sign is a spot on the skin that is new or changing. A simple guide to the usual signs of melanoma, a type of skin cancer, is the ABCDE guide, as follows:
Asymmetry: Half of a mole or mark on the skin does not match the other.
Border: Irregular edges of a spot on the skin.
Color: Color that is not the same throughout a mark.
Diameter: A spot on the skin that is larger than 6 millimeters — about the size of a pencil eraser.
Evolving: A spot on the skin that is changing in size, shape or color.
July is a great month to be active and be outdoors.
Just remember to follow the steps of sun safety and to see your doctor if you notice any changes in your skin.
Christine Ditter is an AHEC community health intern at the Sheboygan County Division of Public Health.