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Happy Sun Safety Week!

There are many ways to protect yourself from the sun's rays.
There are many ways to protect yourself from the sun’s rays.

The first week of June, the Sun Safety Alliance makes a special effort to raise awareness of its mission: “reducing the incidence of skin cancer and creating national awareness of this important health issue […through] a concerted focus on skin cancer prevention, education and awareness”. And we want to help!

The Problem

Skin cancer is an important health issue, and one that is growing in prevalence every year. Consider these statistics[1]:

  • Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million skin cancers in over 2 million people are diagnosed annually.
  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.
  • Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer.
  • Treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77% between 1992 and 2006.

The incidence of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, is on the rise as well.

  •  From 1970 to 2009, the incidence of melanoma increased by 800% among young women and 400% among young men.
  • Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases but the vast majority of skin cancer deaths.
  • One person dies of melanoma every 57 minutes.
  • An estimated 9,480 people will die of melanoma in 2013.

Clearly, we need to raise awareness and increase our sun smarts to prevent skin cancer.

Preventing the Problem

While the statistics don’t look good, the good news about skin cancer is that it is preventable! With a few precautions, you can enjoy activities in the sun without the high risks that UV radiation exposure increases.

To enjoy the sun safely, remember to:

Limit sun exposure when sunlight is most intense.

In most places in North America, the sun is most intense during the months of April through October and from 10 am to 4 pm daily. You can better plan activities to avoid the most intense UV exposure by checking the daily UV index. If you must be in the sun during these times, seek shade when possible and be vigilant about sun protection (see below for details).

Wear broad spectrum sun protection.

Broad spectrum sun screen/sun block provides protection from both UVA (the deeper penetrating) and UVB (the sunburn causing) rays. You should liberally apply (one full ounce) broad spectrum sun protection with at least SPF 15, higher if it is a combination product (e.g. combo bug repellant or moisturizer and sunscreen). Reapply as directed, especially after being in the water or sweating.

Wear protective clothing and sun glasses.

Skin that isn’t exposed to direct sunlight may still absorb UV radiation, so protect yourself by wearing tightly knit, dark colored clothing, a broad brimmed hat and sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.

Although the sun’s intensity varies throughout the year, your sun safety habits shouldn’t. UVA rays remain constant throughout the year, and UV radiation can reflect off of snow, sand, concrete and water.

Ways to Celebrate

You don’t have to be a skin health professional to observe Sun Safety Week. You can join the Sun Safety Alliance’s mission by educating yourself and diligently practicing sun protection. You can start by going through your medicine cabinets and throwing away all outdated sunscreen products. Restock your beach bag with products that provide excellent sun protection without endocrine-disrupting parabens (like our Broad Spectrum SPF 35).  You may even need to do a little “retail therapy” to get new stylish hat that keeps your face shaded and sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection. This is also an excellent opportunity to learn about skin cancer detection, so you can be proactive about your skin health.

[1] Statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation:

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