Play it Safe in the Sun

May 17, 2010 by Kathy Nellor

It’s that time of year again! Kids are almost out of school and you’re probably thinking about summer vacations and enjoying the great outdoors. In the midst of making your plans, you will need to make sure that you arm yourself with the tools and knowledge to play it safe in the summer sun.

Most of the more than 2 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed yearly in the United States are considered to be sun-related. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for about 68,720 new cases of skin cancer in 2009.

How can you protect yourself? According to the American Cancer Society you should follow these steps to help protect yourself from the effects of the sun:

  • Cover Up - When you are out in the sun, wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. The ideal sun-protective fabrics are lightweight, comfortable, and protect against exposure even when wet.
  • Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher-A sunscreen is a product that you apply to your skin for some protection against the sun's UV rays. It is important to remember that sunscreen does not give you total protection. When using an SPF 15 and applying it correctly, you get the equivalent of 1 minute of UVB rays for each 15 minutes you spend in the sun. So, 1 hour in the sun wearing SPF 15 sunscreen is the same as spending 4 minutes totally unprotected.
  • Wear a hat - A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is ideal because it protects areas often exposed to the sun, such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV rays - The ideal sunglasses do not have to be expensive, but they should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation. Check the label to be sure they do.
  • Limit direct sun exposure during midday - UV rays are most intense during the middle of the day, usually between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. If you are unsure about the sun's intensity, take the shadow test: If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are the strongest.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps - Tanning lamps give out UVA and frequently UVB rays as well. Both UVA and UVB rays can cause serious long-term skin damage, and both contribute to skin cancer.

Some people think about sun protection only when they spend a day at the lake, beach, or pool. When it comes to sun protection, the American Cancer Society says we should think about the following catch phrase everyday - "Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap." Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them from ultraviolet light.

Have a fun and safe summer!

Tags:  sun safety, sun screen, tanning beds, skin cancer