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July UV Safety Awareness Month

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Summer has arrived and while the sun is shining bright it's a golden time to highlight July as UV Safety Awareness Month!

We all love to take in those warm summer rays, but everyone must remember to protect their skin and eyes from the damaging effects of the sun.

Many people still aren't paying any attention to using sunscreen.   According to new findings published in the July 2015 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) examined the results of a 2013 survey and found that only 14.3 percent of men, and 29.9 percent of women, in America reported that they regularly use sunscreen. 

The sun emits radiation known as UV-A and UV-B rays. Both types can damage your eyes and skin:

  • UV-B rays have short wavelengths that reach the outer layer of your skin
  • UV-A rays have longer wavelengths that can penetrate the middle layer of your skin 

By learning the risks associated with too much sun exposure and taking the right precautions to protect you and your family from UV rays, everyone can enjoy the sun and outdoors safely. 

Fortunately, there are things you can do to minimize the risk that comes with sun exposure.

1. Cover Up:

Wearing a Hat (preferably wide brimmed 2- to 3-inch hat that covers ears and your neck.) or other shade-protective clothing can partly shield your skin from the harmful effects of UV ray exposure. 

 Instead of shorts and short-sleeved shirts, opt for clothes that provide different levels of UV protection such as long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts. Colors can make a difference as well in your sun protection. Generally, the darker the color, the better the protection. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too. Wearing protective clothing also applies when swimming, so make sure to wear a swim shirt! They come in various styles and thickness, and are not only water-wicking but also feature a UV protection.

2. Stay in the Shade:

The sun's glare is most intense at midday. Staying in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. will further protect your skin. The sun can still damage your skin on cloudy days or in the winter. For this reason, it is important to stay protected throughout the year.

3. Choose the Right Sunscreen:

This is extremely important. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) new regulations for sunscreen labeling recommend that your sunscreen have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and should protect against both Ultraviolet A (UV-A) and Ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays.  This is called a broad-spectrum sun lotion.

 Use a sun lotion indicating “water-resistant”.  It must specify whether it protects the skin for 40 or 80 minutes of swimming or sweating based on standard testing, according to the FDA.  After two hours outside, reapply. 

Keep babies younger than six months out of the sun and it is not a good idea to apply sunscreen to infants due to skin sensitivity.

 And remember sunscreen acts as a filter and shouldn’t be your only line of defense against UV rays.

4. Use the Right Amount of Sunscreen:

According to the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention, most people apply only 25-50 percent of the recommended amount of sunscreen. When out in the sun, it's important that you apply at least one ounce (a palmful) of sunscreen every two hours. You should apply it more often if you are sweating or swimming, even if the sunscreen is water-resistant.

5. Avoid Tanning Beds:

Although tempting, tanning beds can cause just as much harm as the sun. Tanning beds and sun lamps can emit both UVA and UVB radiation. Their use has been linked to an increased risk of melanoma, especially if a person started using them before the age of 30, according to the American Cancer Society.  Even if they feel safe, most doctors and health professionals would not recommend their use.

6. Know Your Risk:

The more sun safety awareness you have, the better you can protect yourself. While skin cancer can affect anyone, certain factors can increase your risk. Depending on your sensitivity to the sun, you could have a higher risk for melanoma if you:

  • Have lighter skin
  • Have multiple atypical nevi or moles
  • Large congenital moles
  • A family history of melanoma or you had melanoma in the past
  • A history of blistering sunburns

If you are at a greater risk for skin cancer, you should be extra vigilant with protecting your skin.

If you are concerned about your skin or have one or more risk factors for skin cancer, it is important to see your doctor (usually a dermatologist). Your doctor can perform a skin cancer screening and evaluate if you need further treatment.

By taking the proper precautions and following this advice you and your loved ones can enjoy the sun.   If you are having any problems after being in the sun, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider.

Enjoy the outdoors this summer and remember to protect your eyes and the skin you're in!

Resources for additional information.

What's Your Sun Safety IQ?  

Protect yourself from the sun-

How Do I Protect Myself from Ultraviolet (UV) Rays?

Be safe in the sun-

Essential facts about sunscreen 

Posted by Molly Riedel with

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