More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. The good news is that skin cancer also is one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
Protection from the sun is important at any time of the year. The sun sends ultraviolet rays (UV-A and UV-B) that we cannot see. Long-term, unprotected exposure to the UV rays causes up to 90 percent of all skin cancer. Sunburned or tanned skin is actually damaged skin, according to the New York State Department of Health.
Before you head outside, take these few simple steps to protect yourself from the sun's damaging rays:
Schedule outside activities for early mornings or late afternoon. If possible, avoid the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun's UV rays are the strongest.
If you must be out during these hours, stay in the shade as much as possible or use an umbrella or tent for artificial shade.
Cover-up when in the sun. Choose clothes such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants or skirts that are made of tightly woven fabrics. Wear wide-brimmed hats that shade the face, scalp, neck and ears.
Use sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor of 15 or higher, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes that are rated to block UV-A and UV-B rays.
Remember, you still need to be careful on cloudy or hazy days as well. Clouds do not block most UV rays. Also, be careful around surfaces such as sand, cement, water and even snow that can reflect the sun's rays on the skin. You also need to be aware of the effects of certain medications. Some prescriptions and over-the-counter medicine can cause the skin to be more sensitive to the sun. Ask your pharmacist or physician if you are concerned that you may be taking one of these drugs.
Although you may have heard of some controversy over the use of sunscreen recently, the Department of Health recommends the use of sunscreen especially during the times the UV rays are strongest. The department's recommendations for the effective use of sunscreen include:
Choose a sunscreen that offers both UV-A and UV-B protection.
Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
Rub a generous amount of sunscreen on all uncovered skin. Do not apply around the eyes, but do wear sunglasses.
Light clothing will not filter out all UV rays, so use sunscreen on areas that will be covered by light clothing.
Use sunscreen stick or lip-balm on sensitive areas such as lips, ears, nose, hands and feet.
Choose a waterproof sunscreen if going in the water.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after you swim or do things that make you sweat.
Towel dry before re-applying sunscreen after swimming or if sweaty.
Just a few moments for prevention are needed. Then you can be outdoors and enjoying the beautiful weather with friends and family.
For more information on skin cancer prevention, contact your health care provider, the National Cancer Institute by phone at 1-800-4-CANCER, or online at www.cancer.gov. For more information, call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. People also can e-mail Healthlink at firstname.lastname@example.org, visit its website at www.nlh.org, or visit its wellness center at 213 Harrison St. Ext. in Johnstown, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.