Summer has officially arrived, and most people will spend even more time outdoors. With that in mind, the Alabama Department of Public Health reminds people of all ages to protect their exposed skin from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays and practice sun safety.
Continued skin damage over time increases a person’s risk of developing skin cancer, and UV rays can also damage eyes, which increases the risk of cataracts. Unprotected skin exposure, either from the sun or artificial sources like tanning beds, can cause irreversible damage in as little as 15 minutes.
It is very important not only to protect your skin but also be aware of any changes. A change in your skin is the most common sign of skin cancer. Remember, not all skin cancers look the same. This could be a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal or a change in a mole.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. Research shows that the number of people diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has risen sharply over the past three decades. In men and women ages 50 and older, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma increased 3 percent per year from 2006 to 2015.
Following these recommendations from the health department helps protect yourself and your family.
- It is important to use sunscreen every day, even if it is cloudy.
- Choose a water-resistant sunscreen and lip balm or lipstick with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply at least 1 ounce of sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every hour if swimming or sweating.
- Avoid using sunscreen products that have expired.
- Seek shade to avoid exposure to UVA and UVB sun rays.
- Limit exposure to the sun during peak hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Be careful around reflective surfaces, such as water, snow and sand, that can increase the risk of being sunburned.
- Keep babies younger than 6 months old completely covered and in the shade.
Protective clothing and accessories
- Wear protective clothing, including long sleeves and pants made from tightly woven fabric.
- Wear sunglasses that are made to block 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect face, head, ears and neck.
- Avoid tanning and recreational sunbathing, including tanning beds. Both can cause skin cancer and wrinkles.