The summer season is under way, and while the sun can feel warm and wonderful on your skin, it’s important to protect yourself from its harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Overexposure to the sun can result in skin and eye damage and may put you at increased risk of developing skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidences of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer.
However, it’s not all bad news when it comes to catching some rays! Sensible sun exposure offers a number of physical and mental health benefits. It’s our primary source of vitamin D, which boosts our immune system and helps us absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. Sunlight also contributes to our emotional well-being by reducing stress and anxiety and improving our overall mood.
Here are some tips you can follow to help protect yourself from UV rays:
- Check the UV Index forecast for your area, issued by the National Weather Service and EPA, before planning your outside activities.
- Wear clothing to cover as much skin as possible, such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants and wide-brimmed hats.
- Wear sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV rays.
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater. For maximum protection, reapply frequently, especially after swimming, sweating or drying off with a towel.
- Use cosmetic products that offer UV protection.
- When possible, avoid or limit outdoor activities during the hours between 10am and 4pm, when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
Parents and other caregivers should pay extra attention to their children, because they tend to spend more time outdoors and can burn more easily. In fact, 80 percent of a person’s lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.
It’s important to remember that when it comes to protecting yourself against the sun, it’s a year-round job. Even on a cloudy day, you can get sunburn. Also, be especially careful in areas with water, snow and sand, which can reflect sunlight and increase your exposure to UV rays.
Note: Be sure to perform regular self exams of the skin to become familiar with existing skin blemishes and to be able to identify any changes and/or new growths. Contact your physician if you have any questions or concerns.