A bottle of sunscreen in a pile of sand on a beach

July Featured Story – National UV Safety Month!

As summer ramps up in Pittsburgh, Metro wants to honor National UV Safety Month by reminding our patients that sun safety is important during this time of the year in order to avoid sun-related skin cancers. Nothing is better than kicking back on the weekends with a cold fruity drink and soaking up the sun rays that are seemingly few and far between this summer here in Pittsburgh! We have compiled a list of sun safety tips and facts for our patients to reference this summer to help ensure that the sunshine can be enjoyed safely!

First, let’s talk about skin cancer…

There are two main types of skin cancers; melanoma and carcinoma. Melanoma develops in the cells that produce melanin (which gives our skin color), and is the deadliest of all the skin cancers. Nonmelanoma skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are the most common types of skin cancers, accounting for over 5.4 million cases per year in the U.S. according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It is reported that 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Skin cancer claims the lives of almost 10,000 Americans every year. The easiest way to avoid the risk is to limit your time under direct sunlight. Follow the tips below to have a fun and healthy summer!

Stay in the shade! The CDC reports that the sun is at its most dangerous between the hours of 10:00am-4:00pm. If you are out and about during these hours, do your best to stay in the shade. Whether you be out shopping around or kicking back at one of your kids’ sporting events, if there is shade available, use it!

Use broad-spectrum sunscreen, and re-apply when necessary! The CDC reports that the minimum SPF that your sunscreen should carry is 15, and you should be sure that it will protect you from both UV-A and UV-B rays. By using broad-spectrum sunscreen you are protecting your skin from two different types of harmful ultraviolet rays that the sun produces. Keep in mind that applying once is not enough, especially if you are swimming or participating in activities that cause heavy perspiration. Most sunscreens recommend that users reapply every 2 hours, so keep that in mind the next time you are kicking back at the beach!

Don’t count on clouds to protect you! You may feel that a partially cloudy day at the beach means that you don’t need to take precautions against sun damage. In reality, UV rays can penetrate clouds and wreak havoc on your skin just as easy as on a clear day. Cloudy skies may cool the temperature around you, making it less likely for you to feel your skin burning. Take the same precautions on a cloudy day as you would on a clear day, including re-applying your sunscreen every two hours, in order to assure that you aren’t causing damage to your skin.

Protect your eyes, too! Did you know that UV rays can also cause damage to the cells in your eyes? Cataracts and macular degeneration can be exacerbated by sun exposure, so make sure to pop on a pair of sunglasses that block glare and protect against UV rays (many brands advertise that they protect against 99%-100% of UV rays), or wear a wide-brimmed hat if you are going to be out in the sun for an extended period of time.

For a complete list of sun safety tips, check out the Federal Occupational Health’s website here and take their Sun Safety Quiz!