If I were to ask you what our largest organ is how many of you would guess the skin? Indeed the skin is the body’s largest organ protecting us against heat, sunlight, injury and infection which means that it too needs protection! As soon as we step outside our skin becomes susceptible to the sun’s rays. While it is true that we do need some sunlight in order to get adequate amounts of vitamin D this amount is very small (about 5 minutes per day). Sadly, skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States- more than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Some people are unaware of the sun’s dangerous effects or unfortunately they tend to neglect any knowledge they may have about sun safety.
The best and easiest way to lower one’s risk for the three main skin cancers: basal, squamous and melanoma is to avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety. While summer brings warm days that lead us to flock to the outdoors, it is not the only season where sun protection is important. Sun safety is important year round so follow these tips carefully:
- There are 3 kinds of harmful rays released from the sun: UVA, UVB and UVC rays. Fortunately the ozone protects us from UVC rays but UVB and UVA are just as dangerous and are what causes sun burns, skin aging, sun spots and more gravely; skin cancer.
- Did you know that the SPF listed on your sunscreen indicates how long it will take for UVB rays only to redden the skin? Because of this it is important to buy a broad spectrum sunscreen to protect your skin from not just UVB rays but UVA rays as well.
- Apply 1 ounce, a shot glass full of sunscreen to each area of your body 30 minutes prior to sun exposure.
- Applying sunscreen once isn’t enough to get the proper protection you need. Be sure to reapply after swimming, sweating towel drying or every two hours.
- Be sure to protect your eyes! The sun can also cause eye damage so grab a pair of sunglasses.
- Hats, long sleeve shirts and pants are great ways to add extra protection, especially for those whose skin is very sensitive.
- 10 AM- 4 PM are the peak burn hours so try to seek shelter indoors or under a shady patch of trees or umbrella.
- Head to one of your trusty weather websites to check the UV index for the day. The higher the index the more protection needed.
- Follow the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you; the sun’s rays are as its strongest.
- Remember applying sunscreen is not an excuse to be in the sun for hours. Regardless of the SPF (never less than 15), you are always at risk.