UV rays

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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"That Healthy Glow"

By Becky Bronstein (Student Intern Region 3 Summer 2012)

With my fair skin and red hair I always knew I had to be careful when it came to sun exposure. I was especially aware of my risk after a trip to my dermatologist when I was proclaimed the “moley-est” of my family. When I went to the beach as a kid I was forced to wear baggy t-shirts to protect my sensitive back and shoulders as well as wear a wide brim hat to shield me from UV rays; not to mention a healthy slathering of the kind of sunscreen that refused to rub in, leaving me even more white and pasty.

As a senior in high school I thought I had it all. I was captain of two varsity sports, class president, and involved in a slew of extracurricular activities. I had a wonderful group of friends, a supportive family, and a recent acceptance into the college of my choice. However, in the spring of 2011 when I visited my dermatologist for a routine mole check I was told I needed to surgically remove an “interesting” looking mole from my right shoulder immediately. Even though I was well aware that my mom had recently had a malignant mole on her forearm, I never thought some “interesting” mole could amount to anything. Shortly thereafter I had the mole removed. I was playing softball the very next day.

When the test results came back I learned that the mole was pre-cancerous. Where did I go wrong? Sure my fair skin and maybe genetics put me at an increased risk, but I thought I took all of the precautions. Oh wait, could it have been those long weekends in the sun playing softball? Could it have been that time I didn’t reapply sunscreen after hours at the beach? Surely those sunburns I could count on one hand couldn’t have brought me to the brink of cancer. What if I had not gone to the dermatologist or waited just a few more months for my check up?

I am 18 years young and I will have a wormy looking scar on my right shoulder for the rest of my life. At first I was scared of what that scar represented. It was a reminder that I could have had cancer. Now, however, the scar is a part of me and it serves instead as a reminder of the precautions I must take.

Cancer doesn’t care who you are. It doesn’t care if you are only 17, if your family has already had enough of it or even if you’ve tried to avoid it. Cancer can affect anyone. By no means will I stay indoors during the hours of 10 am to 4 pm or panic at the appearance of a new freckle, but I will continue to wear protective clothing and seek shade when I can. I can do without that “healthy” glow. I’ll stick with my pasty white sunscreen.

About the author: Rebecca Bronstein completed a volunteer internship this summer in the Air Protection Division at EPA Region 3 where her work focused on climate change, promoting renewable energy and educating students. Becky is a rising sophomore at the University of Delaware, where she is majoring in Environmental Science as a member of the Honors Program and the Dean’s List.

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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Enjoying Outdoor Activities Safely

By Lina Younes

As many families across the United States and Puerto Rico are getting ready for the unofficial kickoff of summer activities, there are some things to keep in mind to stay safe and healthy.

First of all, whether you are going to the beach, going camping, engaging in sports, gardening, or simply walking outside, remember to protect yourself from the sun and its powerful ultraviolet rays! Even on cloudy days, those powerful UV rays can harm you. So, what should you do before enjoying the outdoors this weekend or any day of the year? First check your UV ray index.  Two, put on sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. Remember to reapply it every two hours and even more frequently if you have been in the water. Also, you should wear a hat, protective clothing, and sunglasses.

If you are prone to allergies or you have asthma, it is a good idea to check the air quality index in your community. If there is a higher level of air pollutants in your area at a certain time or you belong to one of the sensitive groups, try to limit your outdoor activities until the AQI improves

Are you planning a trip to the beach? Check out our new interactive tool to monitor the water quality at beaches called BEACON 2.0. You will find updated information on local beaches for the lower 48 states, Alaska, Hawaii, the US territories and tribes.

While you’re engaging in outdoor activities, there is another thing to keep in mind. What do you do to prevent insect bites? Well, apply insect repellents to your exposed skin and clothing as indicated on the product label. Don’t apply this product to eyes or mouth. Don’t let children handle the repellents either. You should apply it for them.

And after having fun under the sun, remember to reduce waste and whenever possible recycle.

So do you have any big plans for this Memorial Day weekend? Planning any green activities? We would love to hear from you.

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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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Sunglasses: Good For Your Appearance And Better For Your Eyes

By Lina Younes

As the summer season fast approaches, we’re seeing more colorful summer fashion items for sale in stores. However, there is one popular item that is valuable not only as a fashion statement, but for its health benefits as well. What item might that be? Sunglasses.

We know that exposure to powerful ultraviolet (UV) rays causes skin cancer. Yet, exposure to natural sunlight or artificial UV rays can also damage your eyes. Long-term exposure to UV radiation can lead to numerous eye disorders including cataracts, skin cancer around the eyelids and other health issues issues. Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens. It is a condition that tends to appear in people as they grow older, especially after 40. Currently, over 22 million people in the US have cataracts. An EPA report indicates that cataract incidence is on the rise.

Even though we think of common eye conditions linked to the aging process, we should take steps to ensure a healthy vision as early as possible. Everyone is susceptible to eye damage from UV radiation regardless of age or ethnic origin. So an easy way to start protecting your eyes is by getting sunglasses. Read the labels to ensure that the sunglasses block 99-100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays. Also choose sunglasses for your children, too. For further protection, you can also use a wide-brimmed hat with your sunglasses.

So, whether you’re headed to the beach, engaging in sports, gardening, or simply enjoying the great outdoors, remember to use sunglasses to protect your eyes. Just because the day is overcast, don’t assume that you don’t need to protect yourself from the sun. Those powerful UV rays can easily shine through the clouds damaging your eyes and skin. So protect yourself and be SunWise all year round. Good sun protection habits should be observed every day and all seasons of the year.

Spanish link

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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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Walking Today for a Healthier Tomorrow

By Lina Younes

As I mentioned in an earlier blog this year, I had decided that 2012 was the year that I was going to incorporate healthier habits into my daily living. I have not only made a conscious effort to eating healthier, but I definitely have become more active. So when I got an email at work about a “Walk to Wellness” event, I immediately signed up for it.

Just last week, we had our Walk to Wellness event at EPA in collaboration with other federal agencies. Over 100 employees came together to enjoy some outdoor activities and walk. We had a nice 1.5 mile route established for us from EPA headquarters, through the Ellipse, near the White House, and back. Although there was a possibility of rain, we were lucky to have an overcast day with temperatures that were just right. Not too hot, not too cold, just perfect for a nice walk.

Walking is an excellent way to get energized without having to go to the gym. You can actually walk anywhere. Since I’ve been trying to increase my daily activities, I got a pedometer to measure my progress. I look for any opportunity to just get up and walk. Need some suggestions? How about walking over to your colleague two cubes down to ask a question instead of simply shooting an email? How about going up or down a flight of stairs instead of taking the elevator? Once you take simple actions like this, you realize that those steps start adding up.

If you’re going to engage in outdoor activities, remember to check the Air Quality Index. Even when it’s overcast, use sunblock or a hat to protect yourself from dangerous UV rays. You can even check out the UV index forecast in your community to reduce the risk of overexposure while exercising outdoors.

It’s all part of getting healthier. Have you done anything special to become more active lately?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.