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With the Memorial Day holiday upon us, it’s that time of year to plan outdoor celebrations and activities. However, with more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed annually in the United States (90 percent of which are caused by overexposure to the sun), it’s also time to think about outdoor protection.

If you want to safely enjoy the sun, consider these recommendations:

  1. Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. when the rays are strongest. Even an umbrella or the shade of a leafy tree is better than direct sun exposure.
  2. Don’t allow yourself to burn because even a single sunburn can increase your risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. In fact, suffering five or more burns can double your lifetime risk of developing the disease.
  3. Don’t use artificial tanning beds or booths under any circumstance because a tan, regardless of how you got it, is an outward sign that skin damage has occurred. In fact, tanning salon lights can emit UVR doses that are 12 time stronger than the sun’s rays, and often lead to mutations in skin cell DNA.
  4. Apply sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 or higher daily. Use of an SPF 15 filters out about 93 percent of the sun’s harmful UBV rays; SPF 30 keeps out 97 percent; and SPF 50 shields 98 percent. However, sunscreen must be applied about 30 minutes before going outdoors to be effective, and reapplied about every 2 hours (more frequently when sweating or swimming).
  5. Clothing, especially those made with bright or dark densely woven fabric, is your most effective form of sun protection. There’s even special clothing that comes with a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) rating. As a point of reference, most blue jeans have a UPF rating of 1,700, but ratings of 30 or more offer substantial protection. And don’t forget a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses to complete the ensemble.

Regardless of the skin protection methods used, it’s best to keep infants and young children out of direct sunlight altogether. Just one severe sunburn during childhood can double the chances of developing melanoma later in life…not to mention the risks of dehydrated and heat stroke.

It’s often difficult to convince children and young adults about the hazards of the rays. So if the threat of skin cancer doesn’t do the trick, consider that the sun also causes premature wrinkling, sagging and discoloration of the skin.

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