June is National Sun Safety Month

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Provided by Prince William Fire & Rescue

Photo credit: photos-public-domain.com

Each year in the U.S., more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people. New cases of skin cancer occur more than all other cancers combined, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Over the course of a lifetime, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer.

Skin cancer varies in numbers and types. One type of skin cancer is Melanoma. Of the seven most common cancers, it is the least common, yet, the deadliest form of skin cancer. It is the only one whose incidence is increasing, killing one person every hour (54 minutes). In 2017, an estimated 87,110 people, in the U.S., will be diagnosed with melanoma and an estimated 9,730 will die of Melanoma. Melanoma is caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light and artificial sources of light in tanning beds. Although UV rays are its strongest during the summer, May – August, exposure to UV rays can occur throughout the year. Surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow reflect 85-90% of the sun’s UV rays.

The strength of the sun’s UV radiation is determined by the UV index developed by the National Weather Service and EPA. The UV index is based on a scale of 1 to 11+. 1 indicates a low risk of overexposure and 11+ indicates an extreme risk of overexposure. The higher the index level the exposure and strength of the sun’s UV rays becomes greater and the faster you can burn! When the index level is very low, 0-2, sunburn can occur in an hour/60 minutes. When the index level is very high, 10+, sunburn can occur in 10 minutes or less.

Driving & Skin Cancer

When one thinks of sun exposure you often think of the beach or spending time enjoying outdoor activities but as millions of Americans commute more than an hour to work each day, they’re unaware that a large portion of their sun exposure is in their cars. Studies indicate the more time spent driving your car, the more sun damage the driver receives, especially on their left side. In countries where the driver’s side is on the right, sun damage is prominent on their right side.

Studies conducted in the U.S., indicate the left side of the body receives up to six times the dose of UV radiation as the right side for those sitting on the left side of the car. While approximately 90 percent of all skin cancers are associated with the sun’s UV radiation, it was believed the primary cause of skin cancer was UVB radiation; that theory has been disproved. While glass effectively blocks UVB rays, a vehicle’s side windows block only 44% of UVA rays demonstrating UVA plays a significant role in skin cancer.

Babies and children whose young skin is more vulnerable to sun damage are at an even higher risk of sun exposure. Children, for safe transport, often sit in the back of the car, some in car seats, where none of the vehicle’s glass provides UVA protection. Healthcare professionals recommend applying sunscreen protection of SPF 15 or higher to your face, arms, neck and hands approximately a half hour before you go driving or riding in a car to effectively reduce exposure to the sun’s rays. Should you decide to install a UV-protective film for your vehicle, a professional installation is recommended. Laws on glass tinting or coating vary from state to state; however, clear UV blocking window film is legal in all 50 states.

June is National Sun Safety Month. Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin McGee in conjunction with national health organizations/associations urge the public to take precautions in protecting you and your loved ones against the sun’s harmful rays by following these simple safety tips:

  • Cover up; wear clothing to protect the skin.
  • Wear a wide-brim cap/hat to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Apply sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays: o SPF 15 is the FDA’s minimum recommendation; however, the American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Apply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, perspiring, or toweling off. Wear UVA and UVB protective sunglasses to protect eyes from developing cataracts and other eye diseases.
  • Seek shade at peak sun hours (10:00 a. m. – 4:00 p. m.).
  • Avoid tanning beds: There is no safe way to tan. Every time you tan you damage your skin, speed up the aging of your skin and increase your risk for all types of skin cancer.
  • Get Vitamin D safely from a healthy diet and a daily multivitamin – not the sun.

Remember to practice sun safety even during overcast days and pay special attention to seniors and children who are most vulnerable to being overexposed to the sun which can lead to sun poisoning resulting in life-threatening effects.

For more information, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation skincancer.org/prevention/are-you-at-risk/sun-hazards-in-your-car, Newser newser.com/story/225067/how-driving-could-lead-to-skin-cancer.html and the American Academy of Dermatology aad.org.


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