Sun safety, all too often this is a safety message that doesn’t get the attention of many people because the effects of it aren’t normally instantaneous, unless it is a painful sun burn. However, the main concern of sun exposure is skin cancer.
There are three most common types of skin cancer are basal, squamous and melanoma. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States.
Of the three major types of skin cancers; basal and squamous are known for being associated with long-term exposure to the sun, but are not often fatal. Melanoma is one that can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early, and can affect people of all ages. No one is immune to the sun’s UV rays but people with blonde or red hair, fair skin, or freckles tend to get sunburned more quickly than others and be more attentive about protecting themselves from the sun.
The two types of ultraviolet rays most likely to damage a person’s skin and increase the likelihood of developing skin cancer are Ultraviolet A (UVA) and Ultraviolet B (UVB).
In the United States one in five people will develop skin cancer. Here are some tips of what to look for:
- If you notice a difference in your skin or changes in moles.
- Skin damage builds up over years, and once the damage has occurred, it can’t be reversed.
- When examining your own skin look for changes in the size, shape, and color of existing moles and discolored patches of skin that may start small and grow. Along with changes in your skin and specific to moles asymmetry, border and other irregularities.
While staying out of the sun completely isn't always possible, there are some things everyone can do to limit the potential damage from sun exposure. These are important tips to protecting lessen the risk of sun exposure:
- Sunscreen – Sunscreens have one or more chemicals that absorb or disperse ultraviolet rays. Sun protection factor (SPF) is a numerical rating that indicates a specific amount of protection. You should wear a sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 15, but those with fair skin should use an SPF of 30 or higher. Due to exposure to water, weather, and perspiration, you should reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.
- Hats – When it comes to sun protection, not all hats are created equal. You should wear a wide-brimmed (minimum of three inches wide) hat with flaps or drapes to provide sun protection for your eyes, ears, and neck.
- Sunglasses – To reduce the risk of eye damage from the sun, wear sunglasses with UV protection. When purchasing UV-blocking sunglasses, look for labels that indicate “UV absorption” or “meets ANSI UV requirements.” Long-term exposure of your eyes to the sun could cause pterygium (thickening of the outer coating of the eye), cataracts, and possibly macular degeneration.
- Clothing – Long-sleeved shirts and long pants provide protection from the sun’s rays. Darker clothing with a tight weave provides more protection from the sun than light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Special SPF or UV-resistant clothing is available to reduce exposing your skin to the UV rays.
- Sun Intensity – Exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays is most intense between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. When possible, avoid working in direct sunlight during this time. If you must be in the sun during these hours, take shade breaks to reduce exposure, drink plenty of water, and reapply sunscreen at least every two hours.
- Medications – Check both your prescription and over-the-counter medications concerning whether the medication creates sensitivity to sunlight and discuss options with your physician.
- Diseases – Sun exposure can be problematic for people with certain types of diseases or health conditions. Discuss your medical condition and sun exposure with your physician.
Play it safe in the heat of the day to help reduce your sun exposure.
Sun exposure and agriculture. (2012) Farm and Ranch eXtension in Safety and Health (FReSH) Community of Practice. Retrieved from http://www.extension.org/pages/63042/sun-exposure-and-agriculture.
Important sun safety facts:
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.
Farmers and Ranchers are a group that ends up working during the peak time for solar exposure. This time is from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., it is recommended to minimize work activities at this time. However, that is not always possible so follow these tips.
- Wear wide brimmed hats.
- Wear long sleeved shirt.
- Sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 15 or higher. For fair skin SPF 30 or higher.
- Reapplying sunscreen throughout the day as water and perspiration decrease the effectiveness of sunscreen.
- Over 1 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed yearly.
- Melanoma cancers are responsible for 8,420 of the 11,200 average deaths from skin cancer each year. For more information and sun safety tips visit the American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org.