The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. Cool and cloudy? You still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays, they filter them—and sometimes only slightly.
Why protect yourself and your children from the sun? Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the United States, yet most cases can be prevented. 5 million people are treated every year for skin cancer in the U.S. Rates of skin cancer have been increasing every year over the last several decades. 1 out of 3 young white women ages 16-25 indoor tan each year. About 37% of U.S. adults report having been sunburned in the past year. 3,200 people a year in the U.S. seek care in emergency rooms from indoor tanning. Nearly 9,000 people die from melanoma each year. $8.1 billion is the estimated annual cost of skin cancer treatment. I think these reasons point out the fact that this is serious business and should be addressed as such. Remember, prevention is key!
Choose Your Cover. Shade and clothing can reduce your risk of skin damage. Seek shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter. When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from a tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, try to at least wear a T-shirt (darker colors are better) or a beach cover-up. Wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. Darker canvas works best. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. Baseball caps do not cover the ears or neck. Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the U.S., regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Sunscreen Scoop. Put on broad spectrum sunscreen with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15 before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or check with your doctor. Sunscreen should be reapplied if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Shelf life is no more than three years, but is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Yes, summertime is fun time! We want you to enjoy the warm weather and outside recreation. The Centers for Disease Control’s motto this year is “Choose Your Cover” and includes all the methods outlined above. For more information, call the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER or the CDC’s Division of Cancer Prevention and Control at 1-888-842-6355. The web site is www.cdc.gov/ChooseYourCover. When you play it safe, you’re playing it smart!
Your Parish Nurse,
Mary Ann Martin, RN, FCN