Got your sun screen on? Hopefully, you are enjoying the nicer, sunny weather and protecting yourself from skin cancer. Although it may not seem to be very intense during our spring months, the sun can be the same intensity as it is in late August or September.
Most weather reports now give the Sun Intensity value which is from 0-11+ with 5-6 moderate, 7-9 high and 10+ very high. Anything above a 4 means we should be taking some precautions.
Most of us get too much sun because we don’t take precautions. Did you know that it is estimated that 90 percent of the new cases of skin cancer each year are preventable if we would just practice sun safety measures?
Follow these few simple practices to make a difference:
-Wear sunscreen. Sunscreen protects the skin from burning as quickly. Select a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA, UVB) sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or above. Remember to apply it 30 minutes before going outside and reapply every two to three hours or sooner if swimming or perspiring on a hot day. Be sure to apply sunscreen on your children over the age of 6 months. It is best to keep infants and young children out of the sun as much as possible.
-Also protect your lips with lip balm that contains sunscreen. Some medications increase sun sensitivity so be careful if you are on medication.
-If possible stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the highest. Remember that even on cloudy days you can get sunburn so protect yourself. Avoid sunlamps and tanning salons as these also damage the skin. Just four visits to the tanning salon a year increase your risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by 15 percent and melanoma by 11 percent.
-Wear a broad brim hat. A three-inch brim is recommended to provide the best protection. Forget the baseball caps! They do not provide protection for the ears and back of the neck.
-Wear sunglasses that filter out the UV radiation. They should provide 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. Not all sunglasses do, so check carefully. UVA and UVB protection is clear and not determined by the color of the sunglasses.
-Consider clothing choices. Long sleeve shirts and pants provide additional protection but can be hot on warm days. Looser styles and woven rather than knits are usually cooler to wear. Darker colors provide higher UV protection but are hot to wear, so find a medium color, which will provide some protection with comfort. Detergents with optical brighteners can increase the UV resistance of fabrics. This can help provide some extra protection, but you still need to wear sunscreen.
Making some changes can help reduce your risk of skin cancer and damaged skin, which gives the wrinkled leathery look as you age. You can enjoy the warmer, sunny weather and still protect yourself if you follow these precautions.
Pat Brinkman is the Ohio State University Extension Educator for Family & Consumer Sciences.
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