By Wendy Dew
I recently returned from a week long vacation at a popular lake resort. I packed for my trip knowing that the weather at the lake would be hot and sunny. You’d think that means I took lots of bathing suits, t-shirts, and shorts, right? Wrong! I packed light long sleeve shirts and pants, a hat and lots of sunscreen. I burn easily and let’s face it – I’m not a hot weather “sun-bunny” kind of person.
During my vacation, I saw boats out on the water, visited different marinas on the lake and watched all kinds of people having fun in the sun. One time, I was walking on the floating dock with hundreds of people around me and I noticed that everyone was staring at me. I quickly realized that I was the MOST dressed person at the “party!”
I was wearing light weight long sleeve shirt and pants and had a hat on my head. Everyone else was wearing a swimsuit and little else. I also noticed that almost everyone (not me!) either had a really bad sun burn or a very deep tan. Even the really young kids! I thought to myself, “don’t they know about skin cancer or sun protection?”
Most people are not aware that skin cancer, while largely preventable, is the most common form of cancer in the United States. More than one million cases are reported annually. By following some simple steps, you can still enjoy your time in the sun and protect yourself from overexposure to the sun. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends these action steps to help you and your family be “SunWise.”
- Do Not Burn – Sunburns significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer, especially for children.
- Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds – UV light from tanning beds and the sun causes skin cancer and wrinkling.
- Generously Apply Sunscreen – about one ounce to cover all exposed skin 20 minutes before going outside. Sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and provide protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Reapply every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
- Wear Protective Clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, when possible.
- Seek shade when possible and remember that the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow and Sand – water, snow and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Check the UV Index-the UV Index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent sun overexposure. The UV Index forecast is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA. Visit www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html.
- Get Vitamin D safely through a diet that includes vitamin supplements and foods fortified with Vitamin D. Don’t seek the sun.
Checkout the SunWise website if you want a little more information about the recommendations above. So I admit I may have looked a bit “dorky” at the marina…but I’m ok with that because I have my reasons. I will look younger even as I get older because I did not let myself burn or tan throughout my youth. I will be much less likely to get skin cancer and I will not suffer through any painful sunburns during my summer vacations.
Summer is almost over and the seasons are starting to change but sun protection is something you can do to protect your skin all year long. For all you kids and teens out there, do yourself a favor and either cover up or pour the sunscreen on! No need to look like a dork like me if you put on your sunscreen!
About the author: Wendy Dew has been with EPA for 13 years and is the Environmental Education and Outreach Coordinator for Region 8.
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.