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  • Writer's pictureANNIKA Foundation

The Importance of Sun Protection

In these long days of summer, from chipping and putting balls to splashing at the lake or walking on the beach, it’s easy to lose track of time and spend more hours in the sun than usual. Don’t get us wrong – an active day is a day well spent – but without adequate sun protection, it can also put your eyes and skin at risk from too much exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) light.

That’s why it’s important to always have a sun protection plan for you and your family. Some of the must-have basics? Good-quality sunglasses that offer UV protection, a few favorite hats, clothing that protects from UV rays, quality sunscreen (reapply often, especially when swimming or if you sweat a lot!) and a good beach umbrella, table umbrella, canopy or other form of cover that offers shade.

Sun-safe summer? There’s an app for that!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), along with the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, wants to make it easier to help people protect their eyes and skin with some simple tips, including the EPA’s free Ultraviolet Index app. You can search for the EPA’s UV Index in the iPhone App Story and on Google Play. You can also check the UV Index on the weather apps of most smartphones.

The EPA says overexposure to UV can cause cataracts and skin cancer. It’s estimated that more than 100,350 cases of melanoma (the most dangerous form of skin cancer) will be diagnosed in 2020 in the U. S. – that’s 4,000 more cases than the previous year. But with a few simple steps, you can reduce your risk:

· Seek shade when outside during mid-day hours when UV exposure is highest.

· Wear clothing such as wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and sunglasses that protects your skin and eyes from UV rays.

· Generously apply SPF 15+ sunscreen, and reapply often.

· Be aware that reflective water, snow, and sand intensify UV exposure.

· Avoid tanning beds and minimizing sunbathing.

· Check the UV Index.

Time, location and season

Most cancers are caused by too much exposure to UV rays. So people who get a lot of exposure to UV rays are at greater risk, according to the American Cancer Society. It’s no coincidence that many people get sunburns in the summer and while on vacation. The American Cancer Society says UV rays are strongest in the middle of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. and UV rays are also stronger in spring and summer, though this is less of a factor near the equator. The farther you get from the equator, the more your UV exposure goes down. Altitude plays a part, too; more UV rays reach the ground at higher elevations. Don’t count on cloud coverage to protect you; UV rays can still reach the ground on overcast days. And remember that water, sand, snow and even pavement or metal surfaces can reflect UV rays and increase your exposure.

While sunscreen can wash or wear off, especially if you are active, there are many stylish, high-tech and effective clothing options to help protect you from the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation offers a great explanation of how and what type of sun-protective clothing keeps the rays at bay. Look for tags and labels that designate Ultraviolet Protection Factor, or UPF. For example, a UPF 50 fabric blocks 98 percent of the sun’s rays.

And while it may be tempting to buy that pair of cheap but cute sunglasses you see in the souvenir shop, it might cost a lot in the long run. Eyewear that’s tinted but that offers little UV protection can be especially dangerous, according to Healthline. The tinting causes your pupils to dilate, but without blocking more UV radiation can enter your eyes. Regular exposure to UV light can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, ocular melanoma and eyelid cancers.

Keep safe, stay smart and protect yourself from the sun while having a great summer!

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