UV Safety: Catch Some Rays Without the Risk

The sun is shining bright and hot, and now is the time to start thinking about protecting yourself from over-exposure. Skin cancer affects one in five Americans in their lifetime. There are more new cases of skin cancer annually than that of prostate, lung, colon, and breast cancer combined.

All things in moderation, so the saying goes. Some sun exposure is good for you. Exposure to daylight has been shown to reduce the risk of nearsightedness development in children. Limited exposure helps to regulate sleep cycles. Sunlight triggers the development of vitamin D in the body, which is good for your mood and your health. However, there are many things to remember when planning a day outdoors.

  • Never look directly at the sun. Protect your eyes from UV rays with a wide-brimmed hat and wrap-around sunglasses with 99 or higher UV block effectiveness. This will protect your eyes from most angles.
  • Always wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays (broad-spectrum sunscreen) and re-apply every two hours throughout the day, even on cloudy days.
  • Avoid sun tanning unless wearing adequate sunscreen to protect your skin.
  • Remember that the sun’s rays are most powerful between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Water, snow and sand are surfaces that will reflect sunlight and increase chances of sunburn.
  • If you must be outside for long periods of time, seek shade and/or wear protective clothing.
  • There is more UV exposure at higher altitudes so use additional protective measures.

Failure to protect yourself from sun exposure can cause cell damage to your eyes, leading to the development of cataracts, macular degeneration, and non-cancerous growths of the conjunctiva that can obstruct vision (pterygium), and can lead to the development of cancerous growths in the skin, requiring surgery for removal. The skin is the largest organ of the human body, and skin cancer can metastasize to other areas, causing additional and equally as serious health issues.

The Environmental Protection Agency has a UV index available online to help you determine how much sun protection you need before going outdoors. It measures the intensity of UV rays on a daily basis, rating the danger of sun exposure on a scale of 1 to 11. A low index requires less protection than a high index.

To access the EPA’s UV index, visit this website.

For more information on how to protect yourself from sun exposure, read more from the Centers for Disease Control here.