Cover up to be sun safe

  • Published
  • By Mike Jett
  • 82nd Training Wing Safety
A sunburn will fade, but damage to deeper layers of skin remains and can eventually cause cancer. That's why sun-safe habits should begin in childhood and last a lifetime

Everyone's skin and eyes can be affected by the sun and other forms of UV rays. Although people with light skin are much more likely to have sun damage, darker-skinned people, including African Americans and Hispanic Americans, also can be affected. People with darker skin tan more easily while people with lighter skin are more likely to burn. However, tanning is still a form of skin damage, just not as severe as a burn. Sunburns are thought to increase your risk of skin cancer, especially melanoma. But UV exposure can raise skin cancer risk without causing sunburn.

Aside from skin tone, other factors can also affect your risk of damage from UV light. You need to be especially careful in the sun if you:
· Have lots of moles, irregular moles, or large moles
· Have freckles and burn before tanning
· Have fair skin or blond, red, or light brown hair
· Have a family history of skin cancer, especially melanoma
· Work indoors all week and then get intense sun exposure on weekends
· Take tetracycline, sulfa drugs, or certain other antibiotics
· Take naproxen sodium or certain other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist about the risk of any medicines you may be taking that could increase your sensitivity to sunlight.

Some people think about sun protection only when they spend a day at the lake, or playing golf, or other outdoor activities. But sun exposure adds up day after day, and it happens every time you are in the sun. "Slip! Slop! Slap!...and Wrap!" is a catch phrase that reminds people of 4 key methods they can use to protect themselves from UV radiation. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and sensitive skin around them from UV light. Follow these practical steps to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun: (these steps complement each other and provide the best protection when used together)

Cover Up
Wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible. Clothes provide different levels of protection, depending on many factors. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts cover the most skin and are the most protective. Dark colors generally provide more protection than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. Dry fabric is generally more protective than wet fabric.

Use a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher
Experts recommend products with a SPF of at least 15. It is important to remember that sunscreen does not give you total protection. When using an SPF 15 and applying it correctly, you get the equivalent of 1 minute of UVB rays for each 15 minutes you spend in the sun. So, 1 hour in the sun wearing SPF 15 sunscreen is the same as spending 4 minutes totally unprotected. Be sure to apply the sunscreen properly following the label directions. Pay close attention to your face, ears, hands, and arms, and generously coat the skin. About 1 ounce (a palmful) should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck and face of the average adult.

Wear a hat
A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is ideal because it protects areas most often exposed to the sun, such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp. A baseball cap can protect the front and top of the head but not the back of the neck or the ears, where skin cancers commonly develop. Straw hats are not recommended unless they are tightly woven.

Wear sunglasses that block UV rays
Research has shown that long hours in the sun without protecting your eyes increase your chances of developing eye disease. The ideal sunglasses do not have to be expensive, but they should block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation. Check the label to be sure they do. Some labels may say, "UV absorption up to 400 nm." This is the same as 100% UV absorption. Also, labels that say "Meets ANSI UV Requirements" mean the glasses block at least 99% of UV rays.

Information courtesy of the American Cancer Society. Please check out their website for more sun protection information.