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Healthy Living

Tips for protecting yourself from the sun's damaging rays

  • Avoid deliberate sunbathing and avoid tanning salons. UV rays from artificial sources such as tanning beds and sunlamps are just as dangerous as those from the sun.

  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of least 15 on all exposed skin, including the lips, even on cloudy days. Apply sunscreen about 20 minutes before going outdoors. The use of sunscreen has been found to limit the amount of skin damage from sun exposure and reduce the chance of skin cancer.

  • Reapply sunscreen about every 2 hours. Even water-resistant sunscreens should be reapplied after swimming or strenuous activities.

  • Wear a broad-brimmed hat and sunglasses.

  • Sit in the shade whenever possible.

  • Wear protective, tightly-woven clothing.

  • Plan outdoor activities early or late in the day to avoid peak sunlight hours between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

In addition, people who live in warm, sunny climates or who have jobs that require them to be outdoors most of the time are at increased risk for developing melanoma, regardless of whether they were sunburned as children. People who burn rather than tan, especially those who have red hair or blue eyes, are also at high risk and should take extra precautions to prevent skin cancer.

Some people feel that a tan may protect against a sunburn and therefore protect against skin damage and skin cancer. However, even if this is true, for people who do not tan easily the amount of sun exposure needed to try and get a tan will cause excessive skin damage and outweigh any possible benefit from having a tan.

Guidance from parents (buying hats and T-shirts, insisting on sunscreen use) and peer modeling (such as lifeguards who wear hats, sunglasses, shirts, and sunscreen) have the most effect on teenagers.

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