It is summer and time for some fun in the sun. The sun’s warmth and brightness can relax us and boost our spirits. The benefits are wonderful, but overexposure can lead to some health issues. Each year more than three and a half million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States. So whether you’re planning a trip to the beach, hitting the golf course, or enjoying a backyard cookout, remember to protect yourself from the sun. These five simple rules can help limit your health risks while you enjoy the sunshine:

1. Wear Proper Clothing

Your clothes can be an effective form of protection from the sun’s harmful rays. Some outdoor clothing now carries an Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) rating. The UPF rating lets you know how well the fabric shields your skin from ultraviolet (UV) rays. All fabrics block UV rays to some degree, but the most effective have a UPF rating from 15 (good) to more than 50 (excellent). For example, a white cotton t-shirt has a UPF of five. Blue jeans have a UPF of 1,700. In other words, densely woven and bright or dark colored fabrics offer the best defense against the sun’s rays. Light-weight, loose-fitting long sleeves and pants also help. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses to protect your head and eyes and put sunscreen on exposed skin.

2. Use Sunscreen

Apply sunscreen generously and reapply it regularly. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) is a measure of how much solar energy (UV radiation) is required to produce sunburn on protected skin (i.e., in the presence of sunscreen) relative to the amount of solar energy required to produce sunburn on unprotected skin. As the SPF value increases, sunburn protection increases. ”UVA rays can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin. Too much exposure to either can cause skin cancer. Keep in mind that sunscreen is often not applied thoroughly or evenly, and it might wash off while you swim or sweat. That means sunscreen might be less effective than the SPF number might lead you to believe. Choose a “broad spectrum” sunscreen that offers protection from UVA and UVB rays. It is important to reapply sunscreen frequently.

3. Seek The Shade

The sun’s rays are usually strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you are outside, find shade from a structure, a leafy tree, or a sun umbrella for protection. Also, try to arrange your schedule so that you can take advantage of the early morning and late afternoon for your outdoor activities.

4. Avoid Tanning

A lot of people like to tan on the beach or in a tanning salon. A tan happens because your body is trying to protect itself and prevent further skin damage. Your skin darkens because it creates a wall of darker pigment called melanin, which acts as a sunscreen to protect from the sun’s harmful rays. Ultraviolet rays can damage the DNA of unprotected skin and lead to mutations that can cause cancer. Even sunbeds or tanning booths almost triple your chances of developing melanoma, a sometimes fatal skin cancer. The best way to decrease your risk of developing skin cancer is to avoid tanning.

5. Examine Yourself - Head to Toe

The Skin Cancer Foundation suggests that you give yourself a full body examination every month. Look for any changes to your skin. These changes can be an early warning sign of cancer. Changes include any skin growths, moles, beauty marks, or brown spots that appear suspicious. See a doctor if you have any doubts or questions about your skin. The American Cancer Society shares the following common ways skin cancer can appear. Keep in mind that skin cancer can appear in many ways, and this list is not comprehensive.

  • A new, expanding, or changing growth, spot, or bump on the skin
  • A sore that bleeds and/or doesn’t heal after several weeks
  • A rough or scaly red patch, which might crust or bleed
  • A wart-like growth
  • A mole (or other spot on the skin) that’s new or changing in size, shape, or color
  • A mole with an odd shape, irregular borders, or areas of different colors

Remember that newborns and children are especially sensitive to the sun. Protecting their skin is important. Follow these good sun habits so that you can limit your health risks while enjoying all kinds of outdoor activities.

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