UV Safety Awareness Month Reminds People About Skin Protection

July is Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Awareness Month and the risks of skin cancer and ways to prevent it should be shared.

According to the Mayo Clinic, skin cancers are the most common cancer with some 5.4 million new cases reported each year in the United States. About 20% of people will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives, with 90% of these cases being related to sun exposure. The most dangerous form of skin cancer, melanoma, accounts for 87,000 cases per year and approximately 9,000 deaths.

What are UV rays? UV rays are invisible rays that are part of the energy from the sun and man-made sources, such as tanning beds.

What are the benefits? UV helps in the production of vitamin D and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from food and helps in bone development.

What are the risks ? Too much UV exposure can cause sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer. Additionally, without eye protection, UV exposure can cause blinding eye disease.

If now you’re thinking, “Oh, no, I’m doomed!” Relax. The first step is recognizing and then monitoring your skin and vision for changes. Contact your GP or a dermatologist if you think you are at increased risk or if you notice any changes in your skin. This can include patchy dryness, itching or flaky texture, irregularly shaped or colored moles, sores that heal and then irritate again, or anything that seems to be growing.

Identifying these problems and treating them early will increase the chances of success.

Sheila Trautz, Mosaic caregiver and cancer survivor, discovered her cancer by accident. After an appointment to have a cyst removed, she told her doctor about a new mole that was itchy and scabby. He removed the mole and discovered it was stage 2 cancer. She is now a skin protection advocate.

While on a committee after the prom, Sheila was shocked to find that some of the prizes were vouchers for tanning beds.

“If we put tanning beds in the hands of teenagers, you might as well give them booze and cigarettes,” Trautz said.

Although this opinion is in the minority, it convinced them of the dangers of UV rays associated with tanning beds.

Who is at risk?

• People who are exposed for long periods of time or who have been burned by the sun

• Those with fair skin, hair and eyes

• Those taking medications that increase skin and eye sensitivity to UV rays

• People with a family history of skin cancer

• People over 50

How can you protect yourself?

• Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours

• Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs

• Protect your children with appropriate clothing and sunscreen

• Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face, head, ears and neck

• Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays

• Use sunscreen with at least sun protection factor (SPF) 15

• Use a lip balm with SPF

• Make sure your sunscreen is not expired or recalled

• Reapply sunscreen every two hours, at least

• Avoid artificial tanning, people who start artificial tanning at a young age have a higher risk of developing melanoma

• Check your medications and supplements for sun warnings

The ripple effects that Trautz’s battle with skin cancer has had on his own community and family are immense. Through her advocacy, she was able to motivate her brother to be seen where he eventually found out he also had melanoma.

“You don’t have to stay out of the sun, but we do have to remember to practice sun safety,” Trautz said.

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