July is UV Safety Month - With temperatures soaring this summer, it is common for people to be concerned about the dangers of heat exhaustion and dehydration, but another killer lurks in the sun's rays in the form of ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
Everyone is exposed to naturally occurring solar UV radiation. The American Cancer Society is encouraging everyone to take steps to protect themselves from the dangerous effects of UV rays, which cause the vast majority of skin cancer.
According to the American Cancer Society, more than two million cases of basal cell or squamous skin cancer (nonmelanoma) and 76,250 cases of malignant melanoma (one of the fastest rising cancers and the most serious form of skin cancer) are expected to be diagnosed in the United States in 2012.
Last year, the Food and Drug Administration announced stricter guidelines for sunscreen labeling to be out by this summer. The new rules tell consumers which products offer "broad protection" from both major forms of ultraviolet radiation. One form, called UVA or long-wave, causes wrinkles, while another, UVB or short-wave, causes burns. Both can cause skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society.
Although sunscreens tout their sunburn protection factor or SPF, this system measures only protection from burns. This year's new sunscreen labels allow products to claim "broad spectrum" protection only if they pass specific FDA tests for blocking UVA rays, and if they have an SPF value of at least 15.
Fortunately, skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer. To help prevent skin cancer, stick to the following sun-safety practices:
• Wear protective clothing in the sun - slip on a tight-weave shirt and wear a wide-brimmed hat that shades the face, neck and ears.
• Seek shade when you can and use umbrellas or other shade structures when outdoors.
• Plan outdoor activities to avoid the midday sun. The sun's UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. however that may not be the hottest part of the day.
• Wear sunglasses to protect eyes from UV light.
• Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher that protects against both UVA and UVB rays so you're protected from both types of harmful rays from the sun.
• Apply a generous amount (about a palmful) 15-20 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply sunscreen as necessary throughout the day, especially after swimming, perspiring or towel drying. Use sunscreen even on hazy days.
• Check the UV Index forecast, which indicates the strength of solar UV radiation on a scale from 1 (low) to 11+ (high). This is helpful in planning your activities and avoiding overexposure to UV radiation.
• Beachgoers should know that white sand and other bright surfaces reflect UV rays and can double UV exposure.
• Avoid artificial sources of UV light (sunlamps, tanning beds).
• Examine the skin regularly. Suspicious lesions or progressive changes in a lesion's appearance or size should be evaluated by a physician.
A few compelling statistics:
• It is estimated that one American dies every hour from skin cancer
• Melanoma is the most common form of cancer for young adults 25-29 years of age. Incidence rates have been increasing for at least 30 years. Since 2004, incidence rates among whites have been increasing by almost 3% per year in both men and women.
The incidence of many common cancers is falling, but the incidence of melanoma continues to rise significantly, at a rate faster than that of any of the seven most common cancers