During the coronavirus pandemic, getting outside for exercise and recreation is a great way to stay physically active and improve your mental and emotional well-being. But as more people flock to the great outdoors this summer, the coronavirus isn’t the only thing they should be vigilant about.
July is Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to reacquaint yourself with the dangers of UV radiation and the preventive measures you can take to protect yourself and your family. Here are the four things every Charles County resident should know about UV safety this month:
How to Protect Against UV Rays This Summer
While too much exposure to UV rays is certainly dangerous, the good news is that protecting yourself from harm is relatively easy. These are some basic steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from UV rays — and skin cancer — this summer:
- Wear sunscreen that provides both UVA and UVB protection with a 30 SPF or greater
- Try to avoid the sun or take frequent breaks in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. because that’s when the sun is at its strongest
- Wear pants, long-sleeved shirts, hats, and sunglasses whenever possible
- Don’t use tanning beds
- Do monthly skin self-exams and talk to your doctor about any areas of skin that contain lumps, bumps, sores, asymmetrical moles, or moles that have changed shape — these can be warning signs of skin cancer
Why UV Safety Matters so Much
A sunburn here and there might not seem like that big of a deal, but harmful UV rays do more than just cause some temporary skin irritation. Too much exposure to UV radiation — regardless if it’s from a tanning bed or the sun itself — damages the DNA in skin cells. And more than the premature aging it causes, overexposure to UV rays can lead to skin cancer, one of the most common forms of cancer in the United States that costs the American people an estimated $8.1 billion to treat every year.
And for people with kids? It’s never been more important to be extra careful. The Melanoma Research Foundation notes that it can take just one blistering sunburn during childhood to double a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.
Why Everyone Should Wear Sunscreen, Regardless of Skin Color
One of the most common misconceptions about UV safety is that Black people or people of color don’t need to wear sunscreen because they don’t face the same dangers from sunburns. While it’s true that some people’s skin protects them from getting sunburned, the risk of developing skin cancer is real for everyone, regardless of their skin color.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only about 15 percent of men and 30 percent of women in the United States use sunscreen regularly when outside for more than an hour. Those percentages dropped even lower for Black people and other people of color.
Although skin cancer rates among Black people is lower than it is among white people, skin cancer can prove even more dangerous for the former group. This is because when skin cancer is found among people of color, it’s more often detected in a later, potentially more deadly stage. And because over half of Charles County is represented by Black or African-American people, this is a misconception we hope our community can overcome as it starts spending more time in the sun.
Why Older Adults Need to Be Especially Careful in the Sun
Nearly 13 percent of the Charles County population is over the age of 65 which means a large portion of our community is at greater risk for developing skin cancer. More specifically, melanoma, a very dangerous form of skin cancer if not treated early, is more common among older people than it is among young people.
Unfortunately, the CDC estimates that only about 15 percent of older adults and just 8 percent of sun-sensitive adults regularly follow all the best practices for protecting themselves against UV rays.
Want to learn more about skin cancer’s warning signs, treatment options, and prevention? Visit the American Cancer Society’s website for more information or talk to your doctor today.