Tips to Stay Safe in the Sun
Summer in well underway and sun safety is always in season. For those taking on the Arizona sun, it is important to wear sunscreen when outside.
According to experts at the University of Arizona’s Skin Cancer Institute, Arizonans are at a particular risk for sun-related skin damage.
Arizona sits at a higher altitude and lower latitude than most states, meaning it’s closer to the sun and the equator.
According to the foundation, high altitude and low latitude mean Arizona residents have less atmospheric protection from various ultraviolet, or UV, rays that can cause skin cancer. In addition, typically in warmer climates, people who are outside choose clothing that exposes more skin.
It is important to protect your skin from sun damage throughout the year, no matter the weather. Sun exposure can cause sunburn, skin aging, eye damage, and skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. In 2018, there were an estimated 1.3 million people living with melanoma of the skin in the U.S. According to a report from the Office of the Surgeon General, about 4.3 million people are treated for basal cell cancer and squamous cell skin cancer in the U.S. every year.
Skin cancer is on the rise in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention project there will be 106,110 new cases of skin melanomas and 7,180 deaths in 2021.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to evaluate sunscreen products to ensure that they are safe and effective and so that available sunscreens help protect consumers from sunburn and, for broad spectrum products with sun protection factor (SPF) values of at least 15, from skin cancer and early skin aging caused by the sun when used as directed with other sun protection measures.
Lower Your Risk for Sunburn, Skin Cancer, and Early Skin Aging
Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging Sun damage to the skin is caused by invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Tanning is also a sign of the skin reacting to potentially damaging UV radiation by producing additional pigmentation that provides it with some, but often not enough, protection against sunburn.
People of all skin colors are at risk for this damage. You can reduce your risk by:
- Limiting your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.
- Wearing clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun, such as long-sleeve shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brim hats. Sun-protective clothing is now available.
- Using broad spectrum sunscreens with a SPF value of 15 or higher regularly and as directed. (Broad spectrum sunscreens offer protection against both UVA and UVB rays, two types of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation.)
- Use sunscreen even on cloudy days.
- Reading the label to ensure you use your sunscreen correctly.
- Consulting a health care professional before applying sunscreen to infants younger than 6 months.
- Don’t overdo it. “Most adults need about 1 ounce – or enough to fill a shot glass – to fully cover their body,” the academy says, so apply enough to cover all skin your clothing doesn’t cover. That includes feet, neck and top of the head.
- Reapply sunscreen about every two hours, or sooner after swimming or sweating.
- If you don’t have much hair, apply sunscreen to the top of your head or wear a hat.
- No sunscreen completely blocks UV radiation. So other protections are needed, such as protective clothing, sunglasses, and staying in the shade.
- No sunscreen is waterproof.
Risk Factors of UV Radiation
People of all skin colors are potentially at risk for sunburn and other harmful effects of UV radiation, so always protect yourself. Experts recommend to be especially careful if you have:
- pale skin
- blond, red, or light brown hair
- been treated for skin cancer
- a family member who has had skin cancer
Another factor that needs to be considered is medications. Some medications may increase sun sensitivity. Even on an overcast day, up to 80 percent of the sun’s UV rays can get through the clouds. Stay in the shade as much as possible. If you take medications, ask your health care professional about sun-care precautions or avoid spending time out in the sun if possible.
Protect Your Eyes
You may not realize it, but sunlight reflecting off sand, water, or even snow, further increases exposure to UV radiation and increases your risk of developing eye problems. Certain sunglasses can help protect your eyes.
When using sunglasses:
- Choose sunglasses with a UV400 rating or “100% UV protection” on the label. These sunglasses block more than 99% of UVA and UVB radiation and provide the most protection against UV rays.
- Do not mistake dark-tinted sunglasses as having UV protection. The darkness of the lens does not indicate its ability to shield your eyes from UV rays. Many sunglasses with light-colored tints – such as green, amber, red, and gray – can offer the same UV protection as very dark lenses.
- Check to see if your tinted glasses have UV protection. If you are unsure, your eye care professional may be able to check for you. When you wear tinted glasses, your pupils dilate and can increase exposure of your retinas to UV light. Without UV protection, you are putting yourself at risk to harmful effects associated with solar radiation.
- Be aware that children should wear sunglasses that indicate the UV protection level. Toy sunglasses may not have UV protection; so be sure to look for the UV protection label.
- Consider large, wraparound-style frames, which may provide more UV protection because they cover the entire eye socket.
- Know that pricier sunglasses don’t ensure greater UV protection.
- Even if you wear UV absorbing contact lenses, wear quality sunglasses that offer UV protection.
- Even when you wear sunglasses, wearing a wide-brim hat and sunscreen can help further protect you from sun exposure.
Wearing sunscreen alone does not completely protect you from sun damage. Experts also recommend wearing wide-brimmed hats to cover a better part of your face, ears and neck