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Summer Sun Safety Tips

Tuesday, August 13th, 2013

We’ve still got several more weeks left of summer sun. Are you taking steps to make sure your family and friends remain sun-safe? Whether you are boating, swimming, lying out in the sun or barbecuing in the backyard, it’s important to understand the dangers of unprotected exposure to the elements. There are lots of consequences for excessive sun exposure—sunburn, premature aging of the skin and skin cancer, to name a few.

In the Continental United States, the most dangerous time of the day to go outdoors is between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Harmful UV rays damage the skin. So if you are going to spend any time outside this summer, use sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 15. Also, make sure the product you buy provides protection from UVA and UVB rays. Ultraviolet radiation is composed of three wavelengths: UVA, UVB and UVC. While UVC isn’t a concern for skin cancer, UVA and UVB play different roles when it comes to tanning, burning and aging.

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that: “With the ongoing debate about the best way to get Vitamin D and the controversy surrounding tanning beds, there is a huge amount of misinformation surrounding ultraviolet radiation (UV). However, one thing is clear: UV radiation is the main factor responsible for skin cancers, including Basal Cell Carcinoma (BCC), Squamous Cell Carcinoma (SCC) and possibly Melanoma. In fact, the National Institutes of Health and the World Health Organization have identified broad spectrum UV as a human carcinogen.”

While the differences between UVB and UVA need to be further explored, exposure to the combination of UVB and UVA is a proven, powerful attack on the skin. It can create irreversible damage that ranges from sunburn to premature aging to skin cancer. So protection from these rays is the only way to avoid a myriad of problems.

Did you know that even if you’re using a high-quality sunscreen, you may not be out of the woods? Sunscreen washes off in water and wears off even if you are just lying in the sun. What’s more, every bottle has an expiration date. So be careful to keep your eye on the pull-date so you won’t use inert lotion. The standard shelf life for lotions and creams is three years. But sunscreen can wear out sooner if it is exposed to high temperatures.

Another way to protect your skin is to wear appropriate clothing. Your best bet for sun protection is a lightweight long sleeve shirt and long sleeve pants made from a tightly woven fabric. Research shows that darker colors may provide more protection than lighter ones. A standard, dry T-shirt provides an SPF lower than 15. A better choice altogether is sun-protective clothing.

Hats offer important sun protection. Choose one with a wide brim to shade your face, ears, neck and forehead. For sun safety, the CDC recommends hats or visors made from tightly woven fabric such as canvas. Avoid straw hats which may allow light to filter through. In general, darker hats offer more protection than their lighter colored counterparts.

Another important item for sun safety is a good pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses protect eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. For optimum protection, find a pair that wrap around and offer 100% UV protection. When all else fails and you find yourself unprotected in the sun, head for the shade! Whether you find it with an umbrella or under a tree or the eaves of a building, take cover.

And no matter how much you love the look of tan skin, avoid indoor tanning beds. Indoor tanning has been linked with skin cancers including Melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer), Squamous Cell Carcinoma, and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma). Indoor tanning also causes premature skin aging such as wrinkles and age spots.

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