August is Sun Safety Awareness Month. Although skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and its main cause exposure to ultraviolet rays, it can be prevented. Sun Safety Awareness Month encourages communities, health professionals, and families to work together to encourage safe sun practices and minimize the risk of developing skin cancer. There are plenty of ways to get involved, both at home and in the larger community. It can be as simple as encouraging your family and friends to adopt good habits together, such as wearing sunscreen and limiting their time in the sun.
When enjoying yourself outside it is very easy to forget how important it is to protect yourself from the sun. Unprotected skin can be damaged in as little as 15 minutes and it can take up to 12 hours for your skin to show the effect of the damage. It is also important to remember that your skin is still exposed to UV rays and needs to be protected even a cloudy or overcast day with little sun. Cloudy days often cause the most amount of sun damage because people are less likely to wear sunscreen and the rays that make it through the clouds are the strongest UV rays.
Do you like tanning? Tanning also causes damage to skin. Any change in the color of your skin after time spent outdoors, is an indicator of damage from UV rays. So how do we protect ourselves from the damaging effects of the sun? We must always take the necessary precautions, especially between 10am and 4pm when UV rays are at their strongest. Here are some practical and easy ways to protect yourself from the sun:
- Seek shade, especially during midday hours
- Wear a hat to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
- Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin
- Use sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of 15 or higher
- Reapply the sunscreen at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps at all costs. The UV rays from them are usually stronger than UV rays from the sun at noontime.
The focus of this month is to raise awareness to the dangers of the sun and its damaging effects. Use this time to ensure you and your loved ones are taking the necessary precautions to protect yourselves. Help spread the word this month for sun safety!