July is Ultraviolet Safety Month ... love the skin you're in

  • Published
  • By Stuart Bapties
  • Health and Wellness Center Flight chief
Sun, fun and spending time with family is what summer is all about. However, during this season of leisure and warm weather, we need to consider a hidden danger that has the potential to quickly end the fun - sun damage. 

Promoting July as the official Ultraviolet Safety Month helps remind us all of the dangers we face while exposing ourselves to the sun without protection.  

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., and UV rays from the sun are the primary cause. The American Cancer Society estimates that one American dies from skin cancer an hour, and this year there'll be about 68,000 new cases of the most serious form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma.

Despite the warnings, many people still want a tan and expose themselves to ultraviolet rays. Not only can UV rays damage the skin and cause skin cancer, but they can also severely damage your eyes. 

Anyone working or playing outdoors is exposed to the sun's ultraviolet rays, even on cloudy days. UV rays are a part of sunlight that is an invisible form of radiation and there are three types to be aware of, along with their effect on the human body.

*UVA is believed to damage connective tissue and increase the risk for developing skin cancer.

*UVB penetrates less deeply into the skin, but can still cause some types of skin cancer.

*UVC is absorbed by the atmosphere and does not pose a risk.

Sunburn isn't immediately apparent. Symptoms usually start about four hours after sun exposure and gets worse over the next 24 to 36 hours. It heals in three to five days.

Symptoms can include red, tender and swollen skin, blistering, headache, fever, nausea and fatigue. Most of us know about sunburn, but did you know that your eyes can become sunburned? 

Sunburned eyes become red, dry, painful, and feel gritty. Chronic eye exposure can even cause permanent damage, including blindness.

First Aid for Sunburns
*Take aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen to relieve pain, headache and fever.

*Drink plenty of water to help replace fluid   loss.

*Comfort burns with cool baths or the gentle application of cool wet cloths.

*Avoid further exposure until burn has resolved.

*Use of a topical moisturizing cream, aloe or 1 percent hydrocortisone cream may provide        additional relief.

If blistering occurs:
*Lightly bandage or cover the area with gauze to prevent infection.

*Do not break blisters. (This slows healing and increases the risk of infection.)

*When the blisters break and the skin peels, dried skin fragments may be removed and an antiseptic ointment or hydrocortisone cream may be applied.

Seek medical attention if:
*Severe sunburns covering more than 15 percent of the body


*High fever (>101 °F)

*Extreme pain persists for longer than 48 hours

Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. 

The most common types of skin cancer include basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

Indicators of skin cancer may include:

*Irregular borders on moles (ragged, notched, or blurred edges)

*Moles that are not symmetrical (one half doesn't match the other)

*Colors that are not uniform throughout

*Moles that are bigger than a pencil eraser

*Itchy or painful moles

*New moles

*Sores that bleed and do not heal

*Red patches or lumps

Protect Yourself
*Avoid prolonged exposure to sun when possible.

*Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15. SPF refers to how long a person will be protected from a burn. (SPF 15 means a person can stay in the sun 15-times longer before burning.) SPF only refers to UVB protection. 

To protect against UVA, look for products containing: Mexoryl, Parsol 1789, titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, or avobenzone. Sunscreen performance is affected by wind, humidity, perspiration, and proper application.

*Throw away sunscreens after one to two years as they lose potency.

*Apply liberally a minimum of 1 oz. at least 20 minutes before sun exposure.

*Apply to ears, scalp, lips, neck, tops of feet and backs of hands.

*Reapply at least every two hours and each time a person gets out of the water or perspires heavily.

*Some sunscreens may lose their effectiveness when applied with insect repellents. You may need to reapply more often.

*Wear clothing with a tight weave or high-SPF.

*Wear wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses with UV protection and side panels.

*Take breaks in shaded areas.

Remember, while having fun in the sun is one of the main joys of summer, taking some simple preventative measures will ensure that your fun is not cut short while dealing with painful and often debilitating sunburns or developing skin cancer from repeated unprotected exposure.