July is Ultraviolet Safety Month, and with good reason! While being out in the summer sun can be fun, it can also be dangerous. One in five people will develop skin cancer at some time during their lives due to overexposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. About 5% of those will suffer from melanoma, the most serious, and deadly form of skin cancer.
If you think you don’t spend enough time in the sun to be at risk for problems related to sun exposure, think again. Even a couple of blistering sunburns — often received during childhood — are enough to create a lifelong risk of melanoma. Longterm overexposure to ultraviolet radiation has also been linked to eye problems, including vision loss and cataracts.
Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and your family:
– Limit your time in the midday sun. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
– Spend as much time as possible under the cover of shady trees or beach umbrellas.
– Always use sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and reapply every two hours. Use a full ounce (the amount that would fill a normal-sized shot glass) on each application, and don’t forget out of the way places such as ears and toes.
– Wear a wide-brimmed hat to help protect your eyes, ears, nose and neck.
– Be aware of your surroundings. Snow, sand, grass and water all reflect the UV radiation, increasing the risk of overexposure.
– To protect your eyes, wear sunglasses that block out at least 99% of UV radiation. The darkness of the shade has nothing to do with the level of UV protection. Special chemicals added to the lens during manufacturing determine the amount of UV protection.
– Don’t use sunlamps or tanning salons. These artificial sources of UV are just as dangerous as the sun.
– Pay attention to the UV Index (see below). The higher it is, the more protection you need for both your skin and eyes!
What is UV Index? (Courtesy of NOAA)
The UV Index is a next day forecast of the amount of skin damaging UV radiation expected to reach the earth’s surface at the time when the sun is highest in the sky (solar noon). The amount of UV radiation reaching the surface is primarily related to the elevation of the sun in the sky, the amount of ozone in the stratosphere, and the amount of clouds present. The UV Index can range from 0 (when it is night time) to 15 or 16 (in the tropics at high elevations under clear skies). UV radiation is greatest when the sun is highest in the sky — between the hours of 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. — and rapidly decreases as the sun approaches the horizon. The higher the UV Index, the greater the dose rate of skin damaging (and eye damaging) UV radiation. Consequently, the higher the UV Index, the smaller the time it takes before skin damage occurs.
For more information, see our Sun Exposure Chart.