Although vital for the survival of every living thing, too much exposure to the sun’s rays can have damaging effects. Many consider a tan to be an attractive feature that is a sign of good health, but melanin (the pigment that colors the skin and shows off as a tan) is actually a signal that skin cells have been damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Each person reacts differently, but everyone’s skin can be harmed by too much sunlight. One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with more than 1 million new cases diagnosed each year. In addition to potentially deadly cancers, excessive sun exposure can cause irreversible damage like premature aging, vision defects and a suppressed immune system.
Minimizing Sun Damage
Avoiding peak periods (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) when UV rays are strongest is the best way to minimize your risk, but taking other steps can add to your protection. Even when skies are cloudy a person can be at risk, so wearing clothing like wide-brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and long pants will cover skin to add protection. Using a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher on all exposed areas will protect from UVA and UVB rays, but this sunscreen must be continually re-applied — especially after excessive sweating or time in the pool. Please be aware that sunscreen can expire within 3 years of purchase and should be discarded after this expiration, or if exposed to excessive temperatures. Sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays are necessary to protect your eyes. While you can reduce the risk of exposure by remaining in the shade, you should still apply sunscreen with this for maximum protection.