sun safety

The ABCs and Your Skin

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By Lina Younes

As we get older, our skin changes.  As part of the natural aging process, it is not uncommon to develop age spots, also known as “liver spots”. Sometimes small growths of skin called skin tags raise to the surface as well. In general, these age tags and spots are harmless. However, some spots and growths might be signs of something much more worrisome than physical appearance alone. These changes may be due to the big “C:” skin cancer.

Studies show that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States largely due to overexposure to harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. So how can you tell if that new growth or sore that doesn’t heal warrants a visit to the doctor?

Check the “ABCDE’s.  These letters stand for

A = Asymmetry (one part of the growth looks different than the other)

B = Borders that are irregular

C = Color changes or more than one color

D = Diameter greater than the size of a pencil eraser

E = Evolving. In other words the growth is changing in size, shape, symptoms, shades, or even bleeding.

In this case, you should see your doctor right away.

Last summer, my father who is in his 80’s noticed a skin spot that kept on evolving and sometimes bled. He showed it to my cousin, a dermatologist, who immediately ordered a biopsy. The test results showed that it was basal cell carcinoma (BCC). Luckily, it was in its early stages. During an out-patient procedure, the cancer was removed. My father quickly recovered and now monitors his skin regularly to see if there are any abnormal spots or growths.

What steps can be taken to prevent skin cancer?  Well, there are things you can do. What is Number one on the list? Take every day steps to sun safety.  You can enjoy the sun and outdoor activities with the right sunscreen protection and protective clothing. Seek the shade, especially during the times when the sun’s rays are the strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM. Avoid tanning, whether under the sun or UV tanning booths.  Think of these tips during “Don’t Fry Day” and every day of the year!

Do you have any tips about sun safety that you would like to share with us? We will love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Protect Your Skin, Rain Or Shine

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By Lina Younes

In the United States, Memorial Day weekend is considered the kickoff of the summer season when we relax, enjoy outdoor activities and have fun under the sun. Some people even go the extra mile “to get ready” by visiting tanning salons in advance so they won’t seem so pale when they don their bathing suit for the first time. However, did you know that by tanning your skin, whether under the midday sun or in a tanning bed, you are actually damaging your skin? That “frying process” can actually cause skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States?

That’s why EPA,  its federal partners, and the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention have come together to educate people about what they can do to protect their health and prevent skin cancer. The Friday before Memorial Day has been designated as “Don’t Fry Day” to make sure that people in this country enjoy outdoor activities while protecting themselves from the harmful ultraviolet rays that shine through even on the cloudiest days.

I confess that my attitude towards the sun has changed over the years. I was one of those that in my teens started using those tanning oils that basically “fried” me. However, with time, and increased awareness I’ve realized the harm I was doing to myself and now I use sunscreen instead when I’m going to be active outdoors. I’ve tried to do my best with my children teaching them to where sunscreen, sunglasses, and hats when they were on the swimming team or playing outside. Luckily, my youngest still is following my advice and happens to love wearing hats and sunglasses. While she does it for fashion purposes, I’m happy for the sun safety benefits as well.

Furthermore, the elderly have to take “additional”  steps for protection – simply they need to take steps to protect themselves.  Repeated sunburns during their youth can come back to haunt them in their golden years. Powerful UV rays can also cause cataracts. My parents, both in their 80’s, have lived most of their life in Puerto Rico. While Mom always uses sunscreen and sunglasses, she has been suffering of cataracts and sun-related damage to her eyes.   Dad, on the other hand, rarely uses sunscreen and he just had a basal cell carcinoma removed last year! At least the cancer was detected early and he is fine now.

So, regardless of your natural skin tone or where you live, you should protect yourself from those harmful ultraviolet rays. EPA has developed a free mobile app you can download to your smartphone with your local UV Index forecast. Have fun under the sun safely! Do you have any sun safety tips you would like to share with us?

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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A Window into Sun Protection

Check out the collaborative window display at 10 Rockefeller Plaza or in the background of The Today Show during the month of June.

By Monica Shimamura

As a child, I spent my summers in Japan where parasols, hats, and foundations with UV protection are a cultural norm.  In the sweltering heat, you see many Japanese women with loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and a parasol. Stores in Japan sell all sorts of UV-protective clothing, hats, parasols, and skin care products.  I asked a friend of mine why everyone was so concerned about the sun, and her simple response was, “No one wants wrinkles or sun spots when they’re older.” This is in stark contrast to the American culture where I grew up, where we are more likely to worship the sun or lay out to get the “perfect tan.”

Many Americans believe the golden brown look signals a healthy and active lifestyle. Through my work alongside colleagues in EPA’s SunWise program and visits to the dermatologist, I know this is not true. While working for EPA’s New York City regional office, I found an amazing dermatologist at Mount Sinai.  If you have ever spent any time in a dermatologist’s office, as I have, you know that no one is immune to skin cancer or any other skin condition—regardless of age or ethnicity. Skin cancer is the most common cancer, even among 20 to 30-year-olds, and one American dies every hour from the disease.

My mom, who was born in Asia, sometimes gets the evil eye in the U.S. when she asks for a senior discount. Many can’t believe she is 72 years old – she looks like she’s in her early 50’s. You can see her strolling through the streets of DC with a parasol most summer days.  I too want to be wrinkle free, but more importantly skin cancer free. That is why I am so excited about the SHADE Foundation’s, EPA’s and the National Park Service’s collaborative window display in Rockefeller Plaza.  During the month of June, if you watch the Today Show, look for the giant display when the crew is outside that says, “Get Outdoors. Be SunWise!” We can all use a little more sun protection in our lives!

About the author: Monica is the Co-Director for the Global Methane Initiative (GMI) Secretariat, an international voluntary program based at the U.S. EPA, which works with partner countries to reduce methane emissions while developing clean energy and stronger economies. Monica also worked with the Stratospheric Protection Division where she helped implement the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, and in Region 2, she worked at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.  Monica has an M.S. and B.S. in environmental science from John’s Hopkins University and University of Massachusetts Amherst. She has lived in the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, Belize, and now resides in Washington, DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Just in Time for Don’t Fry Day

posterEleven-year-old Sueda has recess with her classmates on a playground without any trees. This sixth grader from New Mexico knows how important it is to be safe in the sun. She recently earned her school a shade structure from the SHADE Foundation by winning the national 2012 SunWise with SHADE Poster Contest www.epa.gov/sunwise/postercontest.html. Now Sueda and her classmates at the Albuquerque School of Excellence can stay shaded when they play outside.

In Sueda’s winning poster, two cactus characters offer their sunburned cactus friend some sun protection advice in the form of hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Meanwhile, a chameleon seeks shade under a leaf. Sueda was one of 12,000 participating students from 48 states, the District of Columbia, and the Northern Mariana Islands.  The poster contest is an annual event; submissions are due every year by April 1. The poster contest educates thousands of students each year about how to be SunWise.

May 25th is Don’t Fry Day www.epa.gov/sunwise/dfd.html, and Sueda’s cactus characters are the perfect reminder of what this day is all about: when outdoors, you need to Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap, and Seek Shade to protect yourself from too much sun exposure. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat, wrap on sunglasses, and seek shade between 10am and 4pm. School may be over soon but the need to stay safe under the sun continues. How can you be safe in the sun this summer?

About the author: Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Poster contest for kids!

Students in grades K-8 can help raise awareness about sun safety and win great prizes by entering the 2012 SunWise with SHADE Poster Contest, organized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency SunWise Program and the SHADE Foundation.

The due date for entries is April 1, and more information is available at: www.epa.gov/sunwise/postercontest.html

Original, hand-drawn posters should show sun safety action steps. Participating students are eligible for state and national prizes. The national winner will be chosen through an online vote open to everyone. The grand prize is a family trip to Disney World and a shade structure for the winner’s school. Top posters will be displayed at the National Children’s Museum during summer 2012.

Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in DC.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Sunny Slopes – Ski Safely!

By Julie Kunrath

Pausing at the top of the ski slope, you look down to take in the magnificent view—a scattering of white-dusted trees, rocky peaks glowing on the horizon, powdery snow begging for fresh tracks…

…and high levels of ultraviolet radiation reflecting back at you.

Where’s your sunscreen?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun isn’t just a summer concern. Sunburns happen year-round, and sun protection is especially important for winter sports, since UV radiation reflects off snow. Because of this reflection, UV intensity can be deceptively high, even in the shade. In addition, UV radiation increases with altitude because there is less chance for the atmosphere to absorb the sun’s rays. Skiing at 8,000 feet certainly offers epic views, but it also exposes you to the invisible danger of UV radiation.

As an avid skier, my father put my siblings and me on skis at an early age. Following many of my childhood skiing adventures, I remember the infamous “goggle tan”—a distinct white mask surrounded by red skin. Back then, I was just embarrassed to have a “raccoon face.” Today I understand this was a sign of overexposure to UV radiation. This was a sunburn, an indication of damaged skin and a risk factor for future skin cancer.

As the most common cancer in the U.S., skin cancer is no light matter. Every hour, one American dies from skin cancer. The good news is that skin cancer is preventable with simple sun safety strategies, like sunscreen. As a tough man of the mountains, my dad never wore sunscreen when he skied, so neither did I. I didn’t wise up until a few years ago when my older brother handed me a sunscreen bottle while gearing up for a ski day. Sometimes older brothers know best.

My advice for all snow worshippers: keep a small bottle of sunscreen in the pocket of your winter jacket. Make sure it’s broad spectrum with SPF 30 or higher. pic of UV Widget Slather it on your exposed skin before you hit the slopes and every two hours thereafter. Lift rides or hot chocolate breaks in the lodge are good times to reapply. Your eyes are just as sensitive to sun damage as your skin; protect them with sunglasses or ski goggles that have 99–100% UVA/UVB protection. You can also check the UV Index for a forecast of the day’s UV intensity. Who wants a raccoon face anyway?

About the author: Julie Kunrath is an ASPH Fellow hosted by the SunWise program in the Office of Air and Radiation in DC.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Packing for the Beach

As with any trip, a day at the beach should involve some planning and preparation. While a bathing suit is a given, there are some things that we should or should not take to the beach. What should appear on the checklist of the do’s and don’ts you may ask? Well, the number one thing NOT to take to the beach is…plastics, especially plastic bags. While plastics are commonly used in many aspects of our lives, they have become a major component of marine debris. From water and soda bottles, to cups, utensils, containers, packaging, these plastics have adverse effects on our beaches and marine life. Plastic bags are often swallowed by marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds with tragic consequences.

So what should you do when packing for the beach? Well, take reusable bags, bottles, and containers. While at the beach, make sure you dispose of trash properly.

On the must-haves at the beach? First and foremost, make sure you are SunWise and not sun-foolish. Make sure you take some sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15—even on cloudy days. Also, wear sunglasses and protective clothing like a wide-brimmed hat, for example. And in this day and age of modern mobile technology, EPA has a new mobile application that you can use on smartphones which allows you to check the UV index on the go! Just some simple tips to protect yourself, your family, and our environment.

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force.  Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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On the Green Road: The Sneaky Sun

About the author: While Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoys vacation, he’s sending along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

Aloha from sunny Hawaii! Like Karen Reshkin a few weeks ago, I’ll be sending a few entries from vacation back to the office.

humorous drawing of a bottle of SPF 50 million sun screenSeveral years ago, I worked for the SunWise Schools program, so I know all about sun safety, from applying (and re-applying) sunscreen to wearing long- sleeve shirts, and even staying out of the sun during the middle of the day. And I know that the strongest sun occurs on the summer solstice (last week), when there are no clouds, at low latitudes and at high altitudes. Add in no recent exposure, and my wife and I have the perfect setup for major sunburn.

So when we went up Haleakala on Maui, we knew we needed to be very careful. We put on SPF 50 sunscreen that blocked both UVA and UVB, and we wore jeans, long-sleeve t-shirts, and hats with big brims (it’s only in the 60s at 10,000 feet).

For snorkeling the next day, we slopped on SPF 60, which was so thick it took several squirts to cover everything. And we wore shirts in the water.

The result? Sunburned faces. We couldn’t believe it until we realized:
1) we hadn’t been burnt at all after the mountain, so it wasn’t that trip.
2) our faces were in the water and the backs of our legs weren’t burnt, so it wasn’t snorkeling.

But we did stand outside in line for breakfast for 45 minutes from 9:30-10:15. Bingo! It’s not only the activities we know will burn us, but being outside here anytime.

So enjoy yourselves outdoors this summer, but follow the SunWise actions steps no matter what you’re doing.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: Why Do You Seek Shade or Sun?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

With Memorial Day coming up, it’s time to think about the sun. How do you protect yourself (and your kids)? Do you follow any of the SunWise program’s recommendations? If you actively seek sun or use a tanning bed, why? And what would it take to convince you to seek shade instead?

Why do you seek shade or sun?

En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Ya que se acerca el Día de Recordación de los Caídos, es momento de pensar en el sol. ¿Por qué debe protegerse (y a sus hijos)? ¿Normalmente Sigue las recomendaciones de SunWise? Si activamente busca el sol o los salones de bronceado, ¿por qué? ¿Qué tenemos que hacer para convencerle que debe buscar la sombra?

¿Por qué busca la sombra o el sol?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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