July is National Ultraviolet Safety Month so it is the perfect time for the Ipswich Department of Public Health to help raise awareness of the risks of sun damage and spread the message of sun safety. Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun are the main cause of skin cancer.
Everyone is at risk for skin cancer, but the risk is greatest for people with white or light-colored skin with freckles, blond or red hair and blue or green eyes. Also, people who spend a lot of time outdoors are more likely to get skin cancer from UV rays.
Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers and the most preventable. Take 4 simple steps to prevent skin cancer.
1. Stay in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. since the sun’s rays are the strongest from mid-morning to late afternoon.
2. Use sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher. Sunscreen filters out the sun’s dangerous UV rays. Use sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection. To get the most protection wear sunscreen even on cloudy days; if you wear very light clothing, put sunscreen on under your clothes; put sunscreen on 30 minutes before you go outside; use enough sunscreen (a handful) to cover your entire body and put on more sunscreen every few hours and after you swim or sweat.
3. Cover up with long sleeves, a hat and sunglasses. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants or a long skirt. A hat with a wide brim can protect your face and neck. Wear wrap-around sunglasses to protect your eyes and your skin from sun damage.
4. Avoid burns. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun's UV rays in as little as 15 minutes but it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure. Tanned skin is damaged skin so any change in the color of your skin after time outside, whether sunburn or suntan, indicates damage from UV rays.
It is important to check your skin regularly for changes. Check yourself from head to toe. It's best to begin by learning where your birthmarks, moles, and other marks are and their usual look and feel. Check for anything new; a new mole that looks different from your other moles, a new red or darker color flaky patch that may be a little raised, a new flesh-colored firm bump, a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole or a sore that doesn't heal. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor.
During the month of July, join us in taking action to prevent skin cancer and reduce the risk of UV damage.