This year’s summer season will provide plenty of opportunities to enjoy Georgia’s beautiful outdoor scenery, but will also bring increased chances of exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun.
With UV rays being the leading cause of most types of skin cancer, the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) is encouraging everyone to learn how to safely enjoy outdoor activities while protecting their skin health.
Exposure to UV rays from the sun can damage your skin in only 15 minutes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Prolonged exposure to UV rays can cause changes in skin texture, premature aging of the skin, eye condition such as cataracts and even cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. While there are three different types of skin cancer, the most dangerous form is melanoma.
The American Cancer Society states that melanoma is a cancer that begins in the cells that make the brown skin pigment known as melanin, which gives the skin its color. Melanin helps protect the deeper layers of the skin from the harmful effects of the sun. When found in its early stages, the chances of surviving melanoma significantly increases.
Melanoma accounts for less than 2 percent of skin cancer cases, but causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths. ACS estimates that about 73,870 new melanomas will be diagnosed and about 9,940 people are expected to die of melanoma this year.
From 2000-2011, melanoma incidence rates among females in Georgia were generally higher than those for U.S. females and both experienced an upward trend during the past decade.
As the rates of melanoma have consistently increased over the past 30 years, health professionals nationwide are placing a renewed focus on preventing rates of this cancer through increased public health education about the condition.
Many of these efforts are inspired by the U.S. Surgeon General’s 2014 Call to Action to Prevent Skin Cancer report which includes goals such as educating individuals to make informed, healthy choices about UV exposure; promoting policies of preventing skin cancer; and increasing opportunities for sun protection in outdoor settings.
There are simple actions you can take this summer to help protect your skin health and the health of your loved ones. ACS has coined these series of actions as their Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap! rules which help citizens easily remember the four ways you can prevent skin cancer:
- Slip on a shirt or protective clothing to reduce your UV exposure
- Slop on sunscreen that has an SPF of 30 or higher
- Slap on a hat to protect your face, ears and neck from prolonged sun exposure
- Wrap on sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB absorption to protect your eyes
In addition to these tips, CDC encourages families to be proactive and plan ahead. In the event children will be in the sun longer than expected, always carry sunscreen in the car or in the child’s backpack.
Also, it’s important to know that lower temperatures due to overcast skies do not indicate a reduced risk for UV exposure. Cloudy skies don’t block UV rays. At best, they may filter UV rays, but only slightly. Thus, children enjoying long days outside sill require protection from UV rays as if it were bright and sunny.