Most people like to get a little sun. Its warmth and light can relax us and boost our spirits. But the benefits come with a dangerous trade-off. Each year more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US, over 90 percent of which are caused by the sun's ultraviolet rays (UVR).
Similarly, most of the skin damage we associate with ageing - wrinkles, sagging, leathering, and discoloration - is UVR-related. This damage is cumulative. So, whenever you venture out in the sun, be smart about it. To enjoy what the sun has to offer without risking your health, follow these simple rules:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Be sure to spread it on thick enough: Applying only a thin coating of a sunscreen can reduce the effectiveness of the product by as much as 50 percent.
The Skin Cancer Foundation says that hats and clothing made of dark, tightly woven materials absorb ultraviolet light better than cotton fabrics in lighter shades. Dry fabrics offer more protection than wet ones. Women can select a stylish wide-brimmed hat, and men can choose a bucket hat or a Panama hat to help block the sun. A hat protects the top of your head, where you can’t apply sunscreen, and also offers added protection for your face and neck.
The sun's rays are most intense between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Stay indoors during this time, or if you must be outdoors, cover up and wear sunscreen. Consider using an oversized umbrella if you plan to go to the beach this summer. The umbrella also provides an area for you and your family to cool off after a day in the hot sun.
Light-coloured eyes have more sensitivity to the sun’s rays, but everyone should wear sunglasses when the sun shines. Sun damage to the eyes can cause cataracts and pteryguim, which block your vision. Make sure to wear glasses that have 99 or 100% UVA and UVB protection and wrap completely around your eyes, to ensure full protection.
Be careful around water, snow, or sand. These surfaces reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase the chance of sunburn. Keep in mind that even umbrellas or shade trees provide only moderate protection from ultraviolet light, and they don't protect you from rays reflected off sand, snow, concrete and many other surfaces.
There is no such thing as a "healthy tan." But while sunbathing is a no-no for everyone, it's an especially bad idea for fair-skinned people. Many of them can't tan anyway and only risk getting a serious burn. Limit sun exposure between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM, when the sun's rays are the most intense. Practice the shadow rule: if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are at their strongest, and you should find shade.
Damaging rays aren't inhibited by clouds, and you can still get burned because ultraviolet light can penetrate cloud cover. Take precautions even when the sun isn't shining brightly.
Some drugs, such as tetracycline and diuretics, can make your skin extra sensitive to sun exposure and increase the risk of sunburn. Some herbal medicines, such as St. John's Wort, have a similar effect.
UVA rays from tanning beds penetrate the skin even deeper than UVB rays do. Over time, exposure to UVA rays can make skin dry and wrinkled and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Eating antioxidants provides some protection against the sun’s rays. Fill up on fruits and vegetables, and drink plenty of green tea this summer for maximum protection for your skin.
If you notice any change on your skin, especially in the size or colour of a mole, growth, or spot, or a new growth, or scaliness, oozing, bleeding, or a change in the way a bump or nodule looks, see a doctor as soon as possible. A dermatologist is in a better position to detect skin cancer than other specialised doctors.
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