Submitted by Carol Tomlinson RN BS
Community Health Educator
More than one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed in the United States this year, according to the National Cancer Institute. The good news is that skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
The sun sends out ultraviolet rays (UV-A and UV-B) which 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. Wear wide-brimmed hats that shade the face, scalp, neck and ears. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes that are rated to block UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Use sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and reapply at least every 2 hours or more if you are in the water or sweating.
- Use sunscreen stick or lip-balm on sensitive areas such as lips, ears, nose, hands and feet.
- Don’t use tanning booths or beds. Their UV rays are up to 12X greater than the sun.
According to the Skin Cancer Institute, clothing is your single most effective form of UV protection. However, not all materials protect the same. For example, cotton, linen and silks do not filter out all UV rays. Synthetic and semi-synthetic materials provide the greatest sun protection.
Many manufacturers are now providing clothes that are made to protect from UV rays. Look for the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) label. The number on the tag indicates what fraction of UV rays can penetrate the fabric. You can increase your clothes UPF by using an additive such as Rit Sun Guard in your wash. It will protect your clothing for up to 20 washes inexpensively.
Boy Scouts of America clothing, hats and sunglasses now hold the UPF seal. So be prepared and be in good company. With just a few moments of prevention, you can safely enjoy the outdoor summer weather with friends and family.
For more information on skin cancer prevention, attend a free program on “Sun Sense” on Wednesday, July 25 from 12 noon to 1 p.m. in the Auditorium of Nathan Littauer Hospital, or contact your health care provider, the National Cancer Institute 1-800-4-CANCER (www.cancer.gov), or call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, see our website at www.nlh.org, or visit our wellness center at 213 Harrison Street Ext. in Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.