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Sun Protection: Why is it so important?

Daniel McKay

July is a month for all things summer, whether it be baseball games, pool parties, campouts, a beach vacation or just a fun day at the park. With all these fun activities being outside, it only makes sense that July is also UV Safety Awareness Month.

While sunshine is essential for your body to process vitamin D, ultraviolet (UV) radiation can quickly damage your skin during just 15 minutes of exposure. Radiation from UV light is invisible but is always present during the day, even when you can’t see or feel the sun. Exposure to UV radiation that comes from the sun may not only leave long lasting damage to the skin, but in some cases may cause different types of skin cancers.

Skin cancer, the abnormal growth of skin cells, most often develops on skin exposed to the sun. But this common form of cancer can also occur on areas of your skin not ordinarily exposed to sunlight. There are three major types of skin cancer – basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

Checking your skin for suspicious changes can help detect skin cancer at its earliest stages and give you the greatest chance for successful skin cancer treatment. There are ways to tell if something looks suspicious on your body, but not all skin cancers look the same. In fact, skin cancers can show up in many shapes and sizes, and sometimes they might even look like other skin conditions. Many skin cancers are more common on parts of the body that tend to get more sun, such as the face, head, neck, and arms. However, they can occur anywhere on the body. Some of the more common ways in which skin cancers can appear include:

  • A new, expanding, or changing growth, spot, or bump on the skin
  • A sore that bleeds and/or doesn’t heal after several weeks
  • A rough or scaly red patch, which might crust or bleed
  • A wart-like growth
  • A mole (or other spot on the skin) that’s new or changing in size, shape, or color
  • A mole with an odd shape, irregular borders, or areas of different colors

Keep in mind that 86% of skin melanoma cancer cases are preventable. There are several things you can do to make sure you and your loved ones are protected from UV radiation. The sun is at its peak between 10 am to four p.m., so head indoors or under shade during these hours. If you stay outside longer for work or play, sunscreen with a high S.P.F. of at least 30, a broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses and breathable clothing that covers you up can offer the most protection. U.V. rays can pass through clouds and reflect off surfaces like sand, snow, cement, and water. That’s why sun protection is important in any season, all year round!

One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. So no matter what your summer plans are, remember to take precautions while outside and conduct regular skin self-exams. Together, we can lower our risks, reduce damage, and ensure our future is skin cancer free!

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