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July is UV Safety Month

TonI Ann DiSantis

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer.  The good news? Skin cancer can be prevented!

There are some steps you can take to limit your exposure to UV rays.

Seek shade

An obvious but very important way to limit your exposure to UV light is to avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight too long.  Be especially careful on the beach or in areas with snow because sand, water, and snow reflect sunlight, increasing the amount of UV radiation you receive.

If you plan to be outdoors, you may want to check the UV Index for your area. The UV Index usually can be found in local newspaper, TV, radio, and online forecasts.

Use sunscreen 

Even with proper sunscreen use, some rays get through, which is why using other forms of sun protection is also important. When choosing a sunscreen product, be sure to read the label. Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended.

Be sure to apply the sunscreen properly

When putting it on, pay close attention to your face, ears, neck, arms, and any other areas not covered by clothing. If you’re going to wear insect repellent or makeup, put the sunscreen on first. Sunscreens need to be reapplied at least every 2 hours to maintain protection. They can wash off when you sweat or swim and then wipe off with a towel, so they might need to be reapplied more often – be sure to read the label.

Wear a hat and sunglasses that block UV rays

A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is ideal because it protects areas that are often exposed to intense sun, such as the ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp. A dark, non-reflective underside to the brim can also help lower the amount of UV rays reaching the face from reflective surfaces such as water.

UV-blocking sunglasses are important for protecting the delicate skin around the eyes, as well as the eyes themselves. The ideal sunglasses should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Ideally, you want to ensure that all types of eyewear, including prescription glasses and contact lenses, should also protect against UV rays.

Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps

Many people believe the UV rays of tanning beds are harmless. This is not true. Tanning lamps give out UVA and usually UVB rays as well. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause long-term skin damage, and can contribute to skin cancer. Tanning bed use has been linked with an increased risk of melanoma, especially if it’s started before the age of 30. Most skin doctors and health organizations recommend not using tanning beds and sun lamps.