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Today is October 4, 2022

Stay Safe in the Summer Sun

By Susan Collins-Smith

Stay Safe in the Summer Sun

It is hard to resist soaking up the sun’s rays in the summertime, but it’s important to take proper precautions. 

“Most people don’t know tanned skin is damaged skin,” said David Buys, Mississippi State University health specialist. “That golden brown is actually an injury in the top layer of your skin.”

That damage can lead to burns, cataracts, skin cancer, premature aging, less immunity to illness, and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in adults.

To avoid these damaging effects, people who spend time outdoors, even on cloudy days, should always take steps to protect themselves from the ultraviolet A and B light — or UVA and UVB. These two spectrums of light damage the skin and eyes.

Sun damage can progress into skin cancer in some cases. Buys   urges people to learn how to recognize the signs of three types of skin cancer related to sun damage: basal cell, squamous cell, and malignant melanoma. 

“Knowing how to spot these cancers early can lead to timely, effective treatment,” said Buys. “Check the skin all over your body once a month. Look for fleshy bumps that bleed, scab over and heal in cycles; scaley patches of skin; and moles that appear suddenly or begin to grow and change color.

“Melanoma is the most severe form of skin cancer and the one most likely to spread to other parts of the body,” he said.

 

•    Always apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor — or SPF — of 30 or higher. Look for water-resistant formulas, and apply as directed. Reapplication is recommended after at least two hours and after sweating or swimming.

•    Apply a thick layer of sunscreen, and rub it in well.

•    Sunscreen expires after one to two years. Replace it every year, and write the purchase date on the container.

•    Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. if possible.

•    Keep babies younger than 6 months out of direct sunlight.

•    Wear broad-brimmed hats (3- to 4-inch brims) and tightly woven clothing. Clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor — or UPF — are available.

•    Buy sunglasses with labels that say they block most UVA and UVB light.

•    Use a beach umbrella, cabana, tent, or canopy for shade during extended exposure to the sun.

•    Set a timer or alarm if falling asleep in the sun is a possibility.

 

The ABCDE’s of melanoma developed by the American Academy of Dermatology make it easy to remember the warning signs:

Asymmetrical shape: One half of the mole does not look like the other half.

Border: The border of the mole is scalloped or poorly defined.

Color: The colors within the mole vary. There may be shades of tan, brown or black, or areas of white, red, or blue.

Diameter: The mole is larger than the diameter of a pencil eraser (6 millimeters).

Evolving: The most important factor is to know what is normal. If a mole changes color and/or size, make an appointment with a dermatologist.

 

 

Susan Collins-Smith is a writer with the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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