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Keep it covered: Robins' family medicine physician sheds light on UV rays safety

ROBINS AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- The sun's warmth may bring good memories to mind, but its ultraviolent rays carry dangers to the body.

Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun's UV rays in as little as 15 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Capt. Jacqueline Yurgil, a family medicine physician in the 78th Medical Group's Family Health Clinic, said the sun's effects are more serious than most people realize.

"Ultraviolet light is a form of radiation that has damaging effects to the DNA of skin cells, and is the main cause of sunburn and skin cancer," she said.

Even on cloudy days, UV rays can damage the skin. The CDC recommends sunscreen usage no matter the temperature or cloud coverage.

"UV radiation is only partially blocked by clouds or fog and can cause long-term skin injury even without signs of sunburn," Yurgil said. "It's used in tanning booths which may cause the same type of skin and eye damage as natural sunlight, but may also be as much as 20 times stronger."

UV ray exposure can cause cataracts, macular degeneration and corneal inflammation.

For ultimate protection, wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.

Yurgil said people should avoid sun exposure from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the sun's rays are the most direct.

If people's activities call them to the great outdoors, Yurgil said people should:
- Apply sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF at least every two hours.
- Wear lip balm with sunblock. 
- Wear sun-protective clothing (hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants and sunglasses) if you'll be outside.

Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection, according to the CDC. Keep in mind that a typical T-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so use other types of protection as well.

For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around that shades the face, ears, and the back of the neck. A tightly woven fabric, such as canvas, works best to protect skin from UV rays. 

Avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through. A darker hat may offer more UV protection. If wearing a baseball cap, protect the ears and the back of the neck by wearing clothing that covers those areas, using sunscreen with at least SPF 15, or by staying in the shade.

Check sunscreen's expiration date before use. Sunscreen without an expiration date has a shelf life of no more than three years, but its shelf life is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures, according to the CDC.

To lower skin cancer risk, the CDC recommends people avoid indoor tanning as well.

For more information, visit www.CDC.gov.