Keep sun safety in mind to prevent skin cancer

  • Published
  • By Eric T. Hoehn
  • 88th Air Base Wing Safety Office

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Whether you spend time outdoors hiking, swimming or just relaxing in the backyard, limiting exposure to the sun’s harmful rays must be a priority.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than 3 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the U.S., leading to about 2,000 deaths. That’s more than cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, colon, uterus, ovaries and pancreas combined.

Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Much of it comes from the sun, but some may arise from manmade sources, such as tanning beds.

Fortunately, the American Cancer Society provides some valuable tips to minimize your risk:

When out in the sun, wear clothing to protect as much skin as possible. The ideal sun-protective fabrics are lightweight, comfortable and safeguard against exposure, even when wet.
Experts recommend products with a sun protection factor of at least 15. The SPF number represents the protection level against ultraviolet B rays provided by the sunscreen — a higher number means more protection. Be sure to read the label before you buy.

Use 1 ounce of sunscreen (a “palmful”) to cover your arms, legs, neck and face. For best results, reapply every 2 hours — even more if you’re swimming or sweating.

Don’t forget to protect your lips by using a lip balm with SPF. And don’t skip out just because it looks overcast outside: UV light still comes through on hazy days.

A hat with at least a 2-inch brim all around is ideal to protect your neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.
Invest in a pair of wraparound sunglasses with at least 99% UV absorption to block damaging ultraviolet A and UVB light.
UV rays are most intense during the middle of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. It’s best to plan your outdoor activities outside that time frame, if possible.

Tanning lamps give out UVA and UVB rays as well. Both can cause serious long-term damage and contribute to skin cancer. Our advice: Skip the tanning bed and try a bronzing lotion or self-tanning cream.

Remember these tips when you or family members go outdoors and enjoy the rest of your summer.