Think Clothing and Sunscreens for Summer Sun Safety
The sunny days of late spring, summer and early fall continue to entice people outdoors to enjoy their favorite sports, hobbies or other adventures.
While longer days and the seasonal sun that accompanies them are cause for cheer, the story behind the story of the past thirty years reminds us that sun time is also a time for concern.
The man made thinning of the stratospheric ozone layer, caused by the release of chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and first discovered in the 1970s, continues today. Less ozone translates into more of the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the earth, thereby increasing the possibility of skin cancer and other health concerns for anyone overexposed to sunlight.
The American Cancer Society recently revised its skin cancer estimates saying:
"Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. Melanoma accounts for less than 5% of skin cancer cases. But it causes most skin cancer deaths. The number of new cases of melanoma in the United States has not changed much in the last 8 years. Overall, the lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 1 in 50 for whites, 1 in 1,000 for blacks, 1 in 200 for Hispanics."
Preventing overexposure to UV radiation can be a simple two step process, consisting of wearing proper clothing and using sunscreens during outdoor activities.
Wearing sun protective clothing can be as complicated as shopping at outdoors stores that market specialty designed UV clothing lines. It can also be as simple as wearing lightweight, but tight knitted and light colored shirts and slacks.
The American Academy of Pediatrics, for example, recommends the following:
"Parents should consider dressing their children in lightweight long pants and long-sleeved shirts even in the summer if burning is possible. Clothes should have a tight weave, one that lets in little light when held up to a lamp or window. Cotton clothing is cool and protective. Wet clothing is not an effective optical filter."
Wearing a hat also helps keep the sun away from sensitive scalps and faces.
Proper use of sunscreens also promotes healthy skin care. When purchasing sunscreens, look for the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number and whether the product blocks UVB rays, UVA rays or both.
At a minimum, try to always use sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or more, that blocks both UVB and UVA rays. Like other topical lotions, sunscreens can wear off, even the brands that say waterproof, so consider multiple applications during any prolonged outdoor activity.
Avoiding sun exposure during mid-day, when the UV level reaches its peak, and following these basic guidelines, should be sufficient action to allow most people to enjoy the sun season this season and many seasons into the future.
© 2009. Patricia A. Michaels