Taking protective measures while having fun in the summer sun!

Understand the dangers of UV rays and take precautionary measures when outside this summer.

As we continue to experience summer time and enjoy the long days, warm weather and sun-soaked days at beaches, it is important to remember the strength of the sun and how to take protective measures against its harmful rays.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and melanomas, the deadliest kind of skin cancer, are directly caused by ultraviolet light from the sun. Ultraviolet light, also known as UV light, comes directly from the sun’s rays and so protecting yourself from those can reduce your chances of skin cancer considerably.

In 2011, approximately 65,000 people were diagnosed with melanomas in the United States, and more than 50 percent of those were men. That same year, over 9,000 people died from melanomas in the United States alone. Nearly 250 people die each year from melanoma in Michigan, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

According to Michigan State University Extension educators, a number of simple steps (and somewhat free!) can be taken to help eliminate your risks of getting skin cancer from UV rays.

  1. Stay in the shade, especially during early afternoon hours-the hottest part of the day!
  2. Keep all parts of your body covered with comfortable clothing, including your arms and legs.
  3. Sunglasses can help protect your eyes, but consider a pair that blocks both UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Use sunscreen as well to protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Sunscreen with SPF 15 is generally the minimum amount recommended.

However, purchasable protective measures, such as sunscreen, can be confusing for consumers when buying them. Most of us believe sunscreen protects us from both UVA and UVB rays, which is not always the case. According to a recent news report from the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), “when buying sunscreen, you should look for the level of UVA protection (denoted by a UVA star rating) and UVB protection (denoted by the SPF)”. UVA and UVB rays both can cause cancer, but UVA rays also are responsible for skin aging and wrinkles.

Once you have purchased the sunscreen most suitable for you, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends applying it several minutes before going out into the sun and reapplying it periodically throughout the day. Taking these measures will help prevent skin cancer, sunburns and additional damages from UV rays.

The CDC has additional information for your family and community to take action in preventing skin cancer.

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