The Serious Side of Summer Sun

SunflowerI am a summer girl through and through. Every year when Winter is finally over and the sun begins to peek out again I come back to life along with the flowers and trees.  The sun is the key to my heart.  It is my license to run free outdoors again.  Whether I am sitting contented in my garden, traipsing along a rocky trail in a nearby state park or body surfing in the frigid ocean waves of the Maine coast I come alive in the sunlight.

But there is a price to pay for that daily dose of light.  According to the American Cancer Society the majority of more than one million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed every year are sun-related.  On top of that, in 2006 over 60,000 cases of Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, were diagnosed.  Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer.  It accounts for nearly half of all cancer cases nationwide.  Protecting ourselves from UV damage is an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.

The American Cancer Society recommends avoiding direct sunlight between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm as your first precaution against skin cancer.  For most of us that is simply not an option.  Between commuting, working, and simply enjoying the outdoors most of us will find ourselves in direct sunlight almost every day.  Also, you may be surprised to know that UV rays can penetrate clothing, clouds, fog and glass, including home and automobile windows.

So what can we do to protect ourselves?  The first line of defense is always sensibility.  Do not over-expose yourself to sunlight on a regular basis and never ever expose yourself to sunlight without some kind of SPF protection.  The classic SPF protection is sun screen.  The American Cancer Society recommends using sun screens with an SPF of at least 15, and they recommend that you reapply every two hours no matter what degree SPF you are using. Even sun screens as high as SPF 60 must still be reapplied regularly to remain effective. Tropical_beach_2

The next step is physical cover.  Wide brimmed hats, parasols, and visors are all great choices for giving your face a little extra protection.  Sunglasses are available with 99% and 100% UV absorption lenses.  These can help to prevent cataracts and other serious sun-related eye problems.  Your clothes can even become UV barriers.  Many retailers offer clothing that comes with SPF protection.  Additionally there is a product available called Sunguard that you can use to add SPF to your own clothes. The product is added to your clothes in the washing machine and can change a plain white T-shirt from UPF 5 to UPF 30.  Garments will remain effective for up to 20 washes at which time, Sunguard can be applied again.

There are even window films available to screen harmful UV rays from entering your home.  A list of products approved by the Skin Cancer Foundation can be found here.

For more information on skin cancers or sun protection please visit the American Cancer Society’s Sun Safety Page or The Skin Cancer Foundation’s website.

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