Avoid unprotected exposure to sunlight, seek shade, and never indoor tan.
Exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UVR) is the primary cause of all skin cancer, including actinic keratoses, basal cell skin cancer, squamous cell skin cancer and melanoma. During the past several decades, the epidemic numbers of skin cancers in the United States has prompted scientific research about how much, how often and at what age exposure to ultraviolet radiation is likely to cause this disease. Their studies indicate that exposure to UVR (whether from the sun or tanning beds) at any age should be avoided. Here are some of their findings:
- There are three types of ultraviolet radiation from the sun – UVA, UVB and UVC. The third, UVC, is the most intense, and is completely absorbed by the stratosphere. Only 15 percent of UVB will reach the earth’s surface but it accounts for the vast majority of skin burns. Depending on the time of year, there is 30 to 50 times as much UVA, which has been shown to penetrate the skin more deeply, causing greater harm.
- It takes only one tanning or sunburn at any age to start the biological process that leads to skin cancer. Sunburns can occur often after only 20 minutes of exposure.
- Outdoor workers who are chronically exposed to ultraviolet radiation have the highest rates of squamous cell carcinomas
- Indoor workers who receive intermittent and often intense exposure (on weekends or vacations) to ultraviolet radiation have the highest rates of melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
- Tanning beds expose users to UVA which penetrates the skin more deeply, triggering a biological response in cells which can lead to melanoma
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation at later ages may prompt already damaged cells to form cancer.
- People of all colors get skin cancer, while people who have fair skin and light eyes are most susceptible.
The first step in SunAWARE is to Avoid unprotected UV exposure any time and seek shade. As the peak hours each day for UVR are between 10am and 4pm, it is not realistic to think you will stay inside during those hours. However, if you know how intense exposure is likely to be, you can take precautions to protect yourself and your family.
The Environmental Protection Agency publishes a UV index everyday for all regions of the country. www.epa.org/uvindex This index, which many news stations report on morning shows, tells you when the sun’s rays will be the most intense based on weather conditions, time of year and location. Get into the habit of checking each morning and dress accordingly.
Shade cuts down significantly the amount of exposure you receive. However, it does not eliminate it. UV rays bounce from surfaces, so while you may be sitting under an umbrella on the beach, UVR is bouncing up from the sand. It is important, therefore, to continue to use other sun protection methods – sun protective clothing and sunscreen – even when sitting in the shade.
Avoid unprotected exposure at any time and take the first step to being SunAWARE