It seems that there are so many ways we can get cancer. And our genes can be the biggest catalyst for eventually being diagnosed with cancer. Some forms of cancer are more preventative than others.
Perhaps the cancer that is the easiest to avoid is skin cancer. However, it doesn’t take much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to potentially begin the process of harming our skin cells, which can lead to skin cancer.
Did you know that it takes less than a half hour in the sun to damage your skin? That’s right, in 15 minutes you can cause harm to your skin from sun exposure. If you get too much sun, your skin could have trouble repairing itself, which makes the skin look older.
The UV Index predicts the ultraviolet radiation levels on a scale of 1-11. If the UV index is 3 or higher in your area, you should protect your skin from too much exposure to the sun.
Despite inherent dangers of UV rays, the sun does offer health benefits if you are exposed to it in moderation and are protecting your skin by taking basic UV protection measures. Among the positive aspects of modest exposure to the sun are helping your body make vitamin D, which allows the body to absorb calcium for stronger, healthier bones. The sun can also improve your mood and make it possible to maintain a regular sleep schedule.
But the big caveat is that you need to avoid sun burns and other damage to your skin – including damage that you cannot see – from too much UV. The easiest way we can prevent skin cancer is to apply sunscreen. But too many sun worshipers seem to forget to take this simple step to potentially save their lives. In fact, a recent study revealed that only 14 percent of American men and 30 percent of American women consistently put sunscreen on their faces and other exposed skin prior to going outside for more than an hour.
Ways You Can Protect Your Skin from the Sun’s UV Rays
The best way to prevent sun damage is to limit the amount of time you spend in direct sunlight.
Here are other practical ways that you can protect your skin from sun damage:
Cover Yourself with Hats and Clothing
It is advised that you wear a hat with a brim all the way around that adequately shades your face, ears, and the back of your neck. What works best to shield your skin from those dangerous UV rays is a tightly woven fabric like canvas. Generally, a darker hat offers more UV protection.
When it comes to clothes, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and skirts are ideal for protecting you from UV rays. With respect to clothing materials, cotton and polyester/cotton blends offer solid protection from the sun. When it is stretched, Lycra fabric is much less effective than when it is lax. What’s more, darker colored fabrics provide greater protection from the sun’s rays than lighter colored clothing.
Apply Ample Sunscreen & Do So Consistently
It is recommended that you apply a minimum of one ounce of sunscreen – enough to fill a shot glass – at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that is designed to protect against both UVA and UVB radiation. It should be water resistant and have a SPF of 30 or higher.
Make sure to apply a thick layer on all exposed skin and get to those hard-to-reach places like your back.
Because sunscreen wears off, don’t forget to reapply if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours, as well as after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
This is what you must require from your sunscreen if you want to adequately protect yourself from skin damage and possibly skin cancer.
You will find that sunglasses protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure. Another plus is that they shield your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts.
Avoid Peak Sun Times
If you want to give your skin a break from the intense rays of the sun, then avoid the peak sun hours. The sun is strongest from 10 AM to 4 PM during daylight saving time, and
9 AM to 3 PM for standard time.
Look for Shade
You substantially reduce your risk for sun damage and skin cancer by positioning yourself under shade wherever you can. You can use an umbrella, a tree or other shelter.
You should still include sunscreen in your sun protection regimen even when you are in the shade.
When it comes to deciding when it is the right time to find shade, practice the shadow rule, which is the following: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest, and you should look for shade.
Sun Safety for Students at School
Students can be placed at risk for dangerous sun exposure at recess and during other outdoor activities during the day while at school. There are steps that teachers and school administrators can take to protect students from possibly getting skin cancer in the future.
Among the steps that can be taken at school to shield students from too much harmful sun exposure are:
- Provide shade structure or trees.
- Move outdoor activities to shaded areas.
- Plan for shade when developing or renovating school buildings, playgrounds, or athletic fields.
Pursue Sun-Safe Behaviors
- Encourage students to wear hats, sunglasses, and especially sunscreen while outdoors.
- Take measures to avoid scheduling outdoor activities during peak sun hours, or when the sun is strongest. Keep in mind that midday summer sunlight has the greatest concentration and intensity of UVB and UVA rays.
- Make sure to offer breaks during school outdoor activities to allow opportunities to reapply sunscreen and get water.
UV Facts You Should Know
- Harmful UV rays have the capability to reflect off water and light-colored surfaces, such as concrete, sand, and snow. This can actually send twice the amount of UVB rays directly into your skin.
- UV rays also extend below the surface of water. In fact, three feet of water will block just 20 percent of UV rays.
- You should apply sunscreen during cloudy weather when as much as 80 percent of UV rays can still reach the earth’s surface.
- Repeated small exposures to UV rays may account for 80 percent of total exposure throughout your lifetime.
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