Sun safety steps from the American Institute for Cancer Research and VMH

Most skin cancers are linked to sun exposure, a risk factor that almost everyone can control by heeding a few common-sense precautions.  While many have seen or heard these “sun safety” tips before, the fact remains that there will be approximately one million new cases of  skin cancer this year in America; evidence that not everyone’s listening yet.

· Try to avoid the midday sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. That’s when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation is most intense. Even on hazy or somewhat cloudy days, 80 percent of UV radiation can reach a person.
· Cover up when outside for extended periods. Long sleeves are a good idea and a wide-brimmed hat can keep 70 percent of dangerous rays off ears, nose, face, and neck - areas where many skin cancers occur. Clothing, however, doesn’t completely shield skin. A white cotton T-shirt has a lower sun protection factor (SPF) than many sunscreen lotions. Colored clothes with tighter weaves may offer greater protection.
· Use a sunscreen of SPF 15 or more whenever outside. Apply it 30 to 40 minutes before sun exposure and don’t be stingy - it takes about one ounce of sunscreen to cover a person’s body. Because sunscreen breaks down, reapply it every few hours. This does not extend the amount of time one can safely stay in the sun, however. Wear waterproof sunscreen if swimming, but reapply it when out of the water.
· Take extra care if using medications like antihistamines, tetracyclines, sulfa drugs, diuretics and some oral contraceptives - they can make skin more susceptible to the sun’s rays.
· Protecting children’s skin now through regular use of an SPF 15 sunscreen may decrease their risk of developing skin cancer by nearly 80 percent. Keep children under six months out of the sun - their skin is very sensitive to sunlight and sunscreen use at this age is generally not advised.

For more information on sun safety, call Veterans Memorial Hospital at 563-568-3411.

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