Don't become a statistic - in the United States skin cancer is the most common cancer with 1 in 5 Americans currently developing the disease. Children are most at risk and studies show early sun exposure, especially sunburn during childhood, appears to increase the risk of melanoma later in life. Just one or two blistering sunburns in childhood can double a person’s risk of developing this most serious form of skin cancer. The accumulated lifetime exposure to the sun also plays a factor in triggering skin cancer later in life.
Often we only think of sun screen during those hot sunny days of summer, but to truly protect yourself it should become a part of your daily life year round. Even on cloudy days grab the sun screen and apply it thirty minutes before going outside. The adverse health effects from the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV) include not only skin cancer but diseases to the eye and immune suppression.
Anyone, regardless of age, should limit their unprotected sun exposure during the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Since children play outdoors and receive most of their lifetime exposure before they reach the age of 18, it is important to have them play safe by finding shade, wearing cover-up clothing, and using sunscreen. Shade structures such as trees and umbrellas provide year round protection. (Trees provide about 60% blockage from the sun’s rays.)
No matter what your age, wearing wide-brim hats, sunglasses, long sleeves, and tightly woven clothes are also other good forms of defense. Hats should protect the face, head, ears, and neck. Sunglasses should block out 100% of UVA and UVB radiation to protect your eyes from damage.
Every day, the entire family should use broad-spectrum sunscreens whose ingredients block both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreens should have a Sun Protective Factor (SPF) of at least 15. An even higher SPF is recommended for children. All sunscreen should be applied liberally and evenly at least 30 minutes before going out in the sun, every time you are going out in the sun, and should be reapplied frequently.
For more information, call Buncombe County Cooperative Extension at 255-5522.