Stay Safe in the Summer Sun

By Insurance.com Posted : 09/16/2004

When summer finally arrives, it often means you'll probably be spending more time outdoors. Before you head out to the beach or golf course, however, you'll want to make sure that you're protected from the damaging effects of the sun.

What type of damage can sun exposure cause?
Sunlight consists of two harmful rays: UVA and UVB rays. Long-term UV exposure can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. As a matter of fact, studies have shown that just one or two severe sunburns during childhood increase the risk of melanoma--the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Other possible side effects of sun exposure include:

  • Skin aging (wrinkles, spots, loss of elasticity)
  • Precancerous lesions
  • Diseases of the eye (e.g., cataracts)
  • Suppressed immune system

Who's at risk?
Everyone's skin is at risk for sun damage. And while light-skinned individuals are more at risk, darker-skinned individuals can also be affected. Additional risk factors include:

  • Unprotected and/or excessive exposure to UV rays
  • Family history of skin cancer
  • Multiple or atypical moles
  • Severe sunburns during childhood
  • Prior diagnosis of skin cancer

What you can do to stay safe in the sun
Skin cancer and other sun-related damage are preventable. Yet according to the American Cancer Society, an estimated 9,800 people will die from skin cancer each year. Before you head outside, take the following steps to ensure that you'll be safe in the sun:

  • Wear protective clothing (e.g., long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric)
  • Apply sunscreen--make sure the sunscreen has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 and is labeled "broad spectrum," meaning it protects against both UVA and UVB radiation; you should apply the sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before going outside, and don't forget to reapply every two hours or after swimming or perspiring
  • Pay special attention to kids--use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 40 on kids and try to keep babies who are six months old or younger out of the sun entirely
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat
  • Wear UV protective sunglasses
  • Limit your sun exposure during midday hours--stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are at their strongest; seek shade whenever possible
  • Keep abreast of your area's UV index, which ranges from 0 to 10+--a higher number means greater exposure to UV radiation
  • Limit the amount of time spent on or beside reflective surfaces (e.g., snow, water)
  • Don't forget to use sun protection when it's cloudy outside--you can still get a sunburn on a cloudy day

Early detection is the key
If diagnosed and treated early, almost all types of skin cancer can be cured. According to the American Cancer Society, you should perform monthly skin self-exams and have a health-care professional or dermatologist perform a full-body skin examination every three years if you're between the ages of 20 and 40, or annually if you're age 40 or older.

 

Please note that this description/explanation is intended only as a guideline.

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