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Sun safety tips from the American Cancer Society and the Sun Safety Alliance

by Cheri Scott, HPERD Acquisitions Editor

Summer is upon us and with it comes the urge to soak up all the sun we can. While sunlight definitely has some health benefits, have you ever considered what all those rays are doing to your skin? According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed in the United States every year. Most of those are sun related.


So how can you protect yourself while still enjoying the sunshine? Here are some recommendations from the American Cancer Society and the Sun Safety Alliance:

  • Limit sun exposure during midday - UV rays are the most intense between the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM. A good way to tell the strength of the rays is to take the shadow test: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are the strongest. Remember, UV rays can reach the ground even through clouds or water, too, so make sure that you protect yourself whenever you are outside.
  • Cover up - Wear clothes to protect as much of your skin as possible. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts give the most protection. Dark colored, tightly woven fabrics are better than lightly colored clothes.
  • Use Sunscreen - An SPF of 15 or higher is best. When used and applied correctly, SPF 15 gives you the equivalent of 1 minute of UVB rays for each 15 minutes you spend in the sun. So if you properly apply a sunscreen with an SPF of 15, an hour spent in the sun is the same as 4 minutes spent totally unprotected. Also, the SPF rating applies only to UVB rays. If a sunscreen product is labeled "broad-spectrum", or states that is contains avobenzone (Parsol 17789), ecamsule, zinc oxide, or titanium dioxide, it protects against both UVA and UVB but there is no standard system for measuring protection from UVA rays.
  • Apply sunscreen generously, properly and often - Always follow the label directions. Use about one ounce of sunscreen ("a palmful") to cover your arms, legs, face, and neck. Most sunscreens recommend applying the product to dry skin at least 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow time for it to be absorbed into the skin. Most need to be reapplied every 2 hours or more in order to provide the best protection. Be sure to reapply more often if you’ve been swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a Hat - Baseball caps are good, but they don’t provide the best protection. A hat with a 2- to 3-inch brim all around will cover the most sensitive areas, including the scalp, nose, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays - Try to choose those that block UVA and UVB rays. Look for labels that say "Meets ANSI UV Requirements" as these block 99% of UV rays. Don’t worry about the color or darkness of the lens as the protection comes from an invisible chemical that is applied to the lenses.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps - These beds can give out both UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause long term, serious damage to your skin. 
  • Protect children from the sun - The same precautions listed above apply to children, too. Their skin is much more sensitive and they burn more easily. Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected with hats and appropriate clothing.

For more information on sun safety, visit the American Cancer Society’s Web site, or the Sun Safety Alliance’s Web site.To check how well-informed you are about sun safety, take the quiz provided by the American Academy of Dermatologists called Rays: Your Grade.


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