Let’s face it. Winters in the UP are long, so when the weather warms up and the sun is shining, we spend as much time as possible outside. While the sun can brighten our moods, it is also the main source of Ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Most skin cancers are a direct result of exposure to UV rays. Being educated about Ultraviolet radiation and learning to protect yourself and your family from UV rays may prevent skin cancer.
UV radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation. While the main source of UV rays is the sun, it also comes from man-made sources like tanning beds and welding torches. UV radiation can be divided into three wavelength ranges: UVA rays, UVB rays, and UVC rays. UVA rays are the weakest of the three and can cause skin cells to age creating long-term skin damage such as wrinkles. UVB rays have a little more energy and are the main rays that cause sunburns and are thought to cause more skin cancers. UVC rays have the most energy, and because of this, they react with the ozone high in the atmosphere and do not reach the ground. The higher energy UV rays often have enough energy to remove an electron from an atom or molecule, creating a form of ionizing radiation. Ionizing radiation can cause damage to the DNA in the cells in our body and may lead to cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and more cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US each year than all other cancers combined. Before you head out and enjoy the sun, here are some of the best ways to limit your UV exposure.
Seek shade - UV light is the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. Even on cloudy days, UV rays can reach the ground. One of the best ways to avoid the suns rays is to limit exposure and spend some time in the shade.
Protect skin with clothing - Clothing provides different levels of UV protection. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light, tightly woven fabrics protect better than loosely woven, and dry fabrics are usually more protective than wet fabrics.
Use sunscreen - Sunscreens are products you can put on your skin to protect it from UV rays. Even with proper use, some UV rays can still get through, so it shouldn’t be the only precaution you take. Check the label before choosing a sunscreen. Sunscreens with broad-spectrum protection (for both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor, SPF, values of 30 or higher are recommended.
Wear a hat - Hats with at least a 2-to-3 inch brim around is ideal because it better protects areas exposed to intense sun. A dark, non-reflective underside of the brim can also help lower the amount of UV rays reaching the face from reflective surfaces like water.
Wear sunglasses - UV blocking sunglasses are important for protecting the skin around the eyes and the eyes themselves. Ideally, you should choose sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
By taking the proper precautions and limiting your UV exposure, you and your loved ones can safely enjoy the sun. Enjoy the warm days ahead but do so safely.