Winter’s dreariness is finally gone and summer’s sun beckons us to outdoor fun. However, when you’re having fun outdoors, it’s easy to forget how important it is to protect yourself from the sun. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet rays in as little as 15 minutes, yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. The Tennessee Department of Health is reminding Tennesseans of easy steps to follow to protect your skin this summer and through out the year.
Clouds don’t block UV rays, so precautions against sun damage are needed even on days that are cloudy. Temperature also doesn’t dictate whether you are at risk, so sunscreen and other protective measures are called for on cool days as well as warm ones. Artificially induced UV rays, such as those from tanning beds, are no safer than rays from the sun.
“We want Tennesseans to stay active and enjoy our great outdoors, but to still be safe from the sun damage that causes premature wrinkles and skin cancer. “A good way to remember this is the iconic Australian slogan ‘Slip, slop, slap.’ Slip on a shirt, slop on the 30 or higher SPF sunscreen and slap on a hat. Later they smartly added ‘seek’ shade or shelter and ‘slide’ on sunglasses for a complete prescription to avoid sun damage: slip, slop, slap, seek and slide,” said TDH Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH.
“In fair skinned people, tanning of skin is a protective response to dangerous UV radiation, and tanned skin is usually damaged skin. “Using a tanning bed hurts your skin just like the sun does, and should be avoided to prevent premature aging of your skin and skin cancer, which can be deadly,” said TDH Chief Medical Officer David Reagan, MD, PhD.
Besides causing your skin to look older, sun damaged skin can lead to skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The two most common types, basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are highly curable, but treatment can be disfiguring. Melanoma, the third most common form of skin cancer, is increasing faster than any other preventable cancer and is the fifth most common cancer in men and the seventh most common cancer in women. Melanoma can be deadly, claiming almost 10,000 lives each year in the United States.
Protect yourself from sun damage and skin cancer by taking precautions against sun exposure every day of the year, especially during midday hours when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage. Remember UV rays can reflect off surfaces such as water, cement, sand and snow, and can penetrate glass such as car and office windows. Use sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” to ensure protection against both UVA and UVB rays, as both contribute to sun-induced skin cancer and premature skin aging.
The following tips can help protect both skin and eyes from sun damage:
- Seek shade, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
- Put on sunscreen with broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays and sun protective factor, or SPF, 15 or higher.
- Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours while outdoors and after swimming, sweating or drying off with a towel.
- Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. UV rays from these sources can be stronger than UV rays from the summer sun at noon.
The Food and Drug Administration has taken steps to protect consumers from skin damage caused by too much sun exposure, and now has new rules governing sunscreen labeling. Learn more in their Consumer Alert at www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ConsumerUpdates/ucm352255.htm?source=govdelivery.
For more information on preventing skin cancer, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention online at www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. For more information about TDH services and programs, visit http://health.state.tn.us/.