Submitted by Carol Tomlinson, RN BS
Community Health Educator
Sun Sense For Summer Fun
Summer is finally here and we’re all eager to get out in the sun and fresh air. Spending time outdoors is part of a healthy, active life. However, fun in the sun can also pose a problem, especially as we age.
According to the American Cancer Society (ACS), more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined, and between 40% and 50% of people over age 65 will develop one of the most common forms of skin cancer during their lifetime.
The Skin Cancer Institute lists the primary cause of 90% of skin cancers as ultraviolet (UV) rays emitted from the sun. UV rays are categorized as UV-A and UV-B. Both can damage your skin, therefore, you need to be vigilant when you use protective sunscreens that they are labeled as “broad spectrum” in order to protect you from both types of UV rays. Remember, sunburned or tanned skin is actually damaged skin.
The good news is that skin cancers are among the most preventable forms of cancer. Before you head outside, take these few simple steps to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays.
- When possible, schedule outdoor activities before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., since that is when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest.
- If you must be outside during these hours, stay in the shade as much as you can or use an umbrella or tent for protection.
- Wear wide brimmed hats that shade the face, scalp, neck and ears. To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses that are rated to block UV-A and UV-B rays.
- Liberally apply sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, or preferably 30, approximately half an hour before going out. Reapply at least every two hours.
- Choose a waterproof sunscreen if going into the water or if the activity is likely to make you sweaty.
- Use sunscreen stick or lip balm on sensitive areas like your lips, ears, nose, hands and feet.
- Don’t use tanning booths or beds. Their UV rays are up to 12 times 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 offer the greatest protection.
Many manufactures are now selling clothes that are made to protect from UV rays. Look for the Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) label. You can also increase your current clothes UPF by using an additive such as RIT Sun Guard, available in most grocery stores, in your wash. It will protect your clothes inexpensively for up to 20 washes.
Just a few moments of prevention and you can be outdoors to enjoy all of our beautiful weather with friends and family!
For more information on skin cancer prevention, contact your health care provider, American Cancer Society at cancer.org, Skin Cancer Institute at skincancer.org, or call HealthLink Littauer at 736-1120. You can e-mail us at email@example.com, see our website at nlh.org, or visit our new wellness center at 2 Colonial Court in downtown Johnstown, Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. We’re your community health & wellness service of Nathan Littauer Hospital and Nursing Home.