With the summer vacation season in full swing, many families and individuals are planning and taking part in beach trips, outdoor picnics and other activities to have fun in the sun. One thing that many Georgians forget about in their outdoor activity planning is how to protect their families from overexposure to ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B radiation from the sun.
Sunlight in small quantities is beneficial in that it can improve our moods and can stimulate our skins to convert the precursor of vitamin D to the active form vitamin D3. Too much UVA and UVB exposure, however, can increase our risks for both non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers.
The National Cancer Institute estimates that in 2015 more than 73,870 new cases of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, will be diagnosed and 9,940 of these cases will result in death.
In order to prevent melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancers, take steps now to protect yourself and your family from excess exposure to the sun’s UVA and UVB radiation.
Avoid outdoor activities during the middle of the day if possible. Radiation from the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you are outdoors, seek shade whenever it is available.
Protect yourself from the sun’s rays reflected by sand, water and pavement. Keep in mind that the sun’s rays can go through light clothing, windshields, windows and clouds.
Wear a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, neck and ears. Remember that baseball caps and sun visors protect only parts of your skin.
Wear sunglasses that absorb UV radiation. Manufacturers usually include a sticker that mentions the forms of UV radiation that the glasses absorb and block.
Use sunscreen lotions with a sun protection factor of at least 15. Your doctor may suggest using a lotion with a higher SPF, so follow his or her recommendation.
Apply the product to your skin 30 minutes before going outside. You will need to reapply the lotion after two hours or after you swim or sweat. Sunscreen lotion should not be used on infants less than 6 months of age.
Results of clinical and observational research studies show that eating certain types of foods may also help prevent skin cancer. However, the verdict is still out on the mechanism responsible for risk reduction. Until more dietary intervention studies related to skin cancer can be completed, you can increase your consumption of polyphenols and antioxidants by eating more fruits, vegetables, spices and whole grains to help prevent all forms of cancer.
Rebecca Creasy is the Houston County Extension agent for food and nutrition and family and consumer sciences. Contact her at 478-987-2028 or firstname.lastname@example.org.