For those living in Southern California, sun safety is a year-long concern. Ultra-violet (UV) radiation exposure is the main determinant of most skin cancers, according to the American Cancer Society.
Daniel Reichert, MD, FAAPF, medical director at the Primary Care Professional Plaza, says keeping sun safety tips in mind can not only reduce the risk of skin cancer, but reduce premature aging of skin — such as wrinkles — as well as reduce the need for future skin biopsies and treatments for sun-damaged skin. “The more sun exposure, the earlier your skin ages,” Reichert says.
If staying inside during intense heat is not an option, he recommends three tips for keeping your body healthy, happy, and away from the dangers of UV rays:
- Wear sunglasses. Make sure to protect your eyes with sunglasses that block UV rays. Did you know your eyes are susceptible to sunburn? It’s called corneal sunburn, or photokeratitis, and it can even cause temporary vision loss. Find some sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV ray protection. If sunglasses aren’t your thing, try wearing a hat or visor on sunny days to reduce exposure to harmful rays in your eyes.
- Limit direct sunlight. Limiting direct exposure to the sun can reduce the risk of harmful sun damage. Ways you can do this are staying away from sunlamps or sunbeds, which produce ultraviolet radiation. Staying in the shade whenever possible can help protect from UV rays and still provide the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, even in the hot weather.
- Timing is everything. You’ve probably heard it said that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., but according to the AMC Cancer Research Center, avoiding being out in the sun doing these times can reduce damage from sun exposure by as much as 60 percent. If possible, schedule outdoor activities before or after this time period to avoid being in direct sunlight during these hours. Since this window is when UV exposure is likely to be at a maximum, be careful to wear protective clothing and be conscientious about using sunscreen during these times.
- Successful sunscreen. Sunscreen combines several ingredients to prevent the sun’s UV rays from damaging the sun. Sunscreen should be applied about a half an hour before going out into the sun. This allows your skin to soak up the ingredients and provide better protection. After the initial application, it’s important to reapply about every two hours, to make sure the protection lasts.
The key to protecting yourself against harmful UV rays is by avoiding them when possible. Using the strategies above can help you stay safe and healthy through the summer heat. Children and elderly individuals are at a greater risk of harm due to the sun. Because of this, Reichert says limiting their time in the sun, or in especially high-temperature situations, is encouraged.
“Remembering these tips to protecting yourself and your loved ones against the potential dangers of the sun can be the healthiest thing you can do this summer,” Reichert says.
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