5 Tips to Reduce Your Skin Cancer & Heat-Related Illness Risk
July is UV Safety Month! While spending time in the sun brings some health benefits, including helping your body produce Vitamin D and melatonin, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun significantly increases your risk of developing Skin cancer. According to Skincancer.org, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined.
Too much sun exposure also increases your risk of developing a heat-related illness, such as heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke – which can be deadly. Reduce your risk of developing skin cancer and heat-related illness with the following 5 tips:
- Apply sunscreen early and often. Sunscreen needs time to work, so don’t wait until you’re out in the sun to use it! Use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection at SPF 15 or higher and apply it at least 30 minutes before you head outside. Try to reapply it every two hours, even on cloudy days. Choose a sunblock with a higher SPF if you are near reflective surfaces such as water or white sand, which reflect the sun’s rays and magnify your UV exposure.
- Wear the right clothing. The best clothing for sun protection should be lightweight and breathable, such as cotton, and it should provide full coverage. Keep your skin covered with a long-sleeved shirt, pants or a long skirt. If you’re wearing very light clothing, put sunscreen on underneath you clothes. Remember that UV light can pass through clouds, so it’s important to protect your skin even on cloudy days. Protect your scalp and sensitive face areas with a wide-brimmed hat, such as a baseball cap or a sun hat.
- Drink plenty of fluids. Dehydration can come on without warning and quickly become dangerous. If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated! Keep a water bottle or glass of water with you throughout the day, and aim to drink 6-8 glasses of water every day. If you plan on doing any physical activity or if the weather is extra hot, increase your water intake by one or two glasses.
- Protect your eyes. Repeated exposure to UV rays can cause eye damage, such as macular degeneration or cataracts. Wear full-coverage sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB radiation to reduce eye problems from cumulative damage. Remember that UV light can pass through clouds, so it’s important to protect your eyes and skin even on cloudy days.
- Check your skin. No one can spot a change in your skin better than you. Set aside time once a month to perform a skin self-exam, and mark it on your calendar so it’s easy to remember. The best time for a skin self-exam is right after a shower or bath. Not sure how to perform a self-exam? The National Cancer Institute offers these step-by-step instructions: http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/wyntk/skin/page1
Bonus Tip: Heat-Related Illness:
If you’re spending time in the sun and notice a flushed face, high body temperature, headache, nausea, rapid pulse, dizziness, or lack of sweating despite the heat, take immediate action. Drinking water, applying a cool compress to the back of the neck and moving out the sun is critical at the first sign of symptoms.
Knowing the signs of heat stroke can save the life of you or a loved one.
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