July is UV Awareness Month
Protection from sun exposure is important all year round, not just during the summer or at the beach. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as bright and sunny days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow. UV is also being used now in Gel Manicures to get the nails to harden for those that like to have their nails done at a nail salon. UV has been linked directly to causing Skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable. However, melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous. About 65%–90% of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light.
The hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. daylight savings time (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) are the most hazardous for UV exposure in the continental United States. UV rays are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.
Ultraviolet (UV) Light
Ultraviolet (UV) rays are an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. UV rays can penetrate and change skin cells.
The three types of UV rays are ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB), and ultraviolet C (UVC)—
- UVA is the most common kind of sunlight at the earth’s surface, and reaches beyond the top layer of human skin. Scientists believe that UVA rays can damage connective tissue and increase a person’s risk of skin cancer.
- Most UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, so they are less common at the earth’s surface than UVA rays. UVB rays don’t reach as far into the skin as UVA rays, but they can still be damaging.
- UVC rays are very dangerous, but they are absorbed by the ozone layer and do not reach the ground.
Too much exposure to UV rays can change skin texture, cause the skin to age prematurely, and can lead to skin cancer. UV rays also have been linked to eye conditions such as cataracts.
What are the facts and is this a threat to me?
- Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the U.S.
- Over 2 million people are diagnosed annually
- Many people die of skin cancer every year
- Sunburns are a high risk factor of skin cancer
“I don’t think I’m at risk, so I don’t need to protect myself…”
The following people are at an even greater risk of getting skin damage or skin cancer: African Americans, Asians, and fair skinned people with moles or freckles. People with blue eyes, blonde or red hair have the greatest risk. BUT don’t be fooled everyone has risks!
BE SUN AWARE
How do I protect myself in this hot sun?
The UV Index for New Mexico and West Texas ranges from a 7-13 on any given summer day. This means that the risk of UV exposure is in the ‘very high’ to ‘extreme’ range.
You can reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer by seeking shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. Your best bet to protect your skin is to use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you’re outside—even when you’re in the shade.
Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection from the sun’s UV rays. A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one. Darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.
If wearing this type of clothing isn’t practical, at least try to wear a T-shirt or a beach cover-up. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.
For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect your skin from UV rays. Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection.
If you wear a baseball cap, you should also protect your ears and the back of your neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection. Most sunglasses sold in the United States, regardless of cost, meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they block UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
The sun’s UV rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. Put on sunscreen before you go outside, even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Don’t forget to put a thick layer on all parts of exposed skin. Get help for hard-to-reach places like your back.
How sunscreen works. Most sun protection products work by absorbing, reflecting, or scattering sunlight. They contain chemicals that interact with the skin to protect it from UV rays. All products do not have the same ingredients; if your skin reacts badly to one product, try another one or call a doctor.
SPF. Sunscreens are assigned a sun protection factor (SPF) number that rates their effectiveness in blocking UV rays. Higher numbers indicate more protection. You should use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15.
Reapplication. Sunscreen wears off. Put it on again if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours and after you swim or do things that make you sweat.
Expiration date. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.
Cosmetics. Some make-up and lip balms contain some of the same chemicals used in sunscreens. If they do not have at least SPF 15, don’t use them by themselves.
The National Weather Service and EPA advise people to regularly check the UV Index, which they developed as a way to predict the next day’s UV radiation levels on a 1-11+ scale, helping people determine appropriate sun-protective behaviors. EPA will issue a UV Alert when the level of solar UV radiation is predicted to be unusually high and the risk of overexposure is consequently greater.
Also at the EPA site (www.epa.gov), you can check the UV Index forecast map, which shows
contour lines of predicted UV Index values during the solar noon hour. The map is created daily
from National Weather Service forecast data. Here are the recommended Sun Protective measures for each exposure category.
|Index Number||Sun Protection Messages|
|LOW||<2||You can safely enjoy being outside. Wear sunglasses on bright days. If you burn easily, cover up and use sunscreen SPF 15+.In winter, reflections off snow can nearly double UV strength.|
|MODERATE||3-5||Take precautions if you will be outside, such as wearing a hat and sunglasses and using sunscreen SPF 15+. Reduce your exposure to the sun’s most intense UV radiation by seeking shade during midday hours.|
|HIGH||6-7||Protection against sun damage is needed. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, use sunscreen SPF 15+ and wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants when practical. Reduce your exposure to the sun’s most intense UV radiation by seeking shade during midday hours.|
|VERY HIGH||8-10||Protection against sun damage is needed. If you need to be outside during midday hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., take steps to reduce sun exposure. A shirt, hat and sunscreen are a must, and be sure you seek shade.Beachgoers should know that white sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV and can double UV exposure.|
|EXTREME||11+||Protection against sun damage is needed. If you need to be outside during midday hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., take steps to reduce sun exposure. A shirt, hat and sunscreen are a must, and be sure you seek shade.Beachgoers should know that white sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV and can double UV exposure.|
Regardless of the UV Index, the following sun safety measures are encouraged:· Do Not Burn.· Generously Apply Sunscreen to all exposed skin using a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 that provides broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
· Wear Protective Clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, where possible.
· Seek Shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
· Use Extra Caution near Water, Snow and Sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun which can increase your chance of sunburn.
· Watch for the UV Index (See chart above).
· Get Vitamin D Safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements.
Early detection of melanoma can save your life. Carefully examine ALL of your skin once a month. A new or changing mole should be evaluated by a dermatologist. Have fun in the sun this summer, but remember to use all the UV protection possible.
Sign up and contact me to find out more about UV safety and skin cancer with our Wednesday Wellness class July 10 with Dr. Mac of the Clovis Cancer Center.
Information provided by EPA, NOAA and American Academy of Ophthalmology.
Today’s post comes to us courtesy of Ken Oswald, Safety and Security Manager for Plateau