Be Sun Safe Year Round

It is the time of year that everyone needs reminded to protect themselves from the sun. Spending time outside is a great way to be physically active, reduce stress, and get some Vitamin D. Anyone that works or plays outside needs to remember to reduce skin cancer risks by protecting your skin from the sun. This is true year-round not just in the summer on bright sunny days. The National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as ‘Don’t Fry Day’ to encourage sun safety awareness and to remind everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors.

Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light. UV light comes from the sun, sunlamps, and tanning beds.

Sunburn is recognized as a type of skin damage and tanning is the skin's reaction to protect itself from the sun's harmful rays. Even though a suntan may look nice and make one feel good, there is no medical evidence to suggest that a suntan improves health. Experts have determined that casual exposure to sunlight is adequate to satisfy vitamin D requirements.

Everyone should take precautions to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sun. People who have pale skin, lighter hair colors (blond, red or light brown), have had skin cancer or who have a family member who’s had skin cancer need to be especially careful in the sun. Some medications may increase sun sensitivity, check with your health care provider to be sure.

There are several precautions you can take to protect yourself from the sun.

1. Shade - Stay out of the sun by staying in the shade between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest. A great way to tell if you should seek shade is to look at your shadow, if it is shorter than you, seek shade.

2. Clothing – Cover as much of your body as possible. Wear a lightweight and long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UV protection, when possible. For more effective protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label. Wear a hat that has a brim all the way around that shades your face, ear, and the back of your neck. If you choose a baseball cap be sure and protect your ears and back or your neck other ways. Straw hats that allow the sunlight through should be avoided.

4. Sunglasses – Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays, reduce the risk of cataracts, and protect the tender skin around your eyes. Look for glasses that block out both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound glasses protect the eyes from all angles.

5. Use sunscreen – Choose a broad spectrum, water resistant one with a SPF of at least 30 or higher. Apply it to all uncovered skin at least 15 minutes before going out and then every 2 hours. Follow the directions on the bottle you are using. Check the sunscreen’s expiration date and if there isn’t one the shelf life is no more than 3 years and is shorter if it has been exposed to high temperatures.

Slip! Slop! Slap! Wrap! - Is a catchy way to remember before going outdoors, slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on sunglasses.

Find more information on Sun Safety, at this website: Nebraska Extension ‘In Our Grit, Our Glory.’

UN–L for Families

Nancy Frecks, Extension Educator

Nebraska Extension