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Four Smart Sun-Safety Habits To Reduce Cancer Risk

Health--sun-safetyBy Dr. Jamie Hardy

Summer is here and I know you are excited about wearing sandals, shorts, and sundresses. The weather is warm and sunny and nature is calling your name, right?  Well, before you leave home for a day out with your friends, or spend some time relaxing by the pool, or head to the lake or beach to soak up the sun you must take proper precautions to protect your skin.

While the sun’s rays are beautiful, they can also be harmful to your health. Exposure to ultraviolet rays are a well-established risk factor for all types of skin cancer. As the most common cancer in the United States, data shows that “1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime.”  According to the American Academy of Dermatology, nearly 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. every day.

Among ethnic groups with darker complexions there is a myth that the presence of more melanin in the skin offers 100% protection against skin cancer. This is entirely false. Experts at the American Cancer Society tell us that African Americans and Hispanics have a lower annual incidence rate of melanoma of 1 per 100,000 compared to Caucasians with a rate of 26 per 100,000. However, what is concerning is that “in people of color melanoma is often diagnosed at later stages when it is more advanced.”

So yes, while the sun is beautiful, exposure to its rays can put you at risk for the development of skin cancer.  The great news is that there are ways that you can reduce your skin cancer risk while enjoying time in the summer sun.

1. Cover Up
Resist the urge to show a lot of skin while you are out and about. Wear long pants, maxi skirts, and long-sleeved shirts for protection from the sun’s UV rays. You may be thinking to yourself, As hard as I have been working on getting summer time fine do I really have to cover up? Yes! Do it for the long-term health of your skin.

2. Wear Hats
For the best protection wear a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, back of your neck, and ears.  Hats with decorative holes in them will let the sunlight through. Baseball caps and straw fedoras also do not provide enough coverage to shield you from the sun.

3. Remember the Sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is an absolute must regardless of your complexion. From latte, to caramel, to deep cocoa complexions, no one is exempt from the harmful UV rays of the sun. When choosing a sunscreen, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends a product that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

4. Limit Your Exposure Time
Limit your exposure time in the sun by seeking shade under an umbrella, covered patio, or even under a tree while outside. The peak intensity of the sun occurs between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Avoid or at least minimize your sun exposure during these times.

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