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Monthly Health Topics

Have Fun in the Sun, Safely

By Susan Beane, M.D., Vice President and Medical Director, Healthfirst
Barbecues, beach outings, park picnics, and other fun outdoor activities are the highlight of the summer season. It’s also that time of year when we all need to be careful to avoid overexposure to the sun and sunburns. While you’re enjoying the great outdoors, remember to protect yourself from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays by wearing sunscreen and protective clothing!
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., with one million new cases each year. Even though the risk for skin cancers is highest for fair-skinned people, anyone can develop skin cancer regardless of the color of their skin. Studies have also shown that women tend to use sunscreen more often than men, so ladies make sure you encourage your husband, boyfriend, son, or father to slather on some sunscreen before heading outside.
Fortunately, there many other common sense approaches to having fun in the sun while minimizing your risk of UV exposure:
• UV rays are their strongest from 10am-4pm. Seek the shade of a tree or umbrella during those times to ensure the least amount of harmful UV ray exposure
• Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating
• Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, which reflect the damaging rays of the sun and can increase your chance of sunburn
• Protect your eyes too! Wear a wide-brimmed hat or wear wrap-around style sunglass with 99 percent or higher UV block
Make sure you protect your children from sunburn, too. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding sun exposure for babies younger than 6 months. Dressing young babies in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats can be important for protecting them and keeping them healthy. If need be, you can also apply sunscreen (SPF 30+) to small areas like the face and back of the hands if protective clothing and shade are not available.
Another important tip: Be sure to check your area’s UV index, which measures the intensity of UV rays and forecasts your risk of exposure. Most weather forecasts include this information, so you can be prepared to protect against the harmful effects of the sun.
Don’t let a burn ruin your enjoyment of the summer sun. Follow the simple guidelines above to have a healthier and happier summer.

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