Maribel Rojas

Maribel Rojas

Sun protection is essential to skin cancer prevention. About 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86% of melanomas are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. There are several ways to protect yourself, including wearing protective clothing and sunglasses, using sunscreen and looking for shade.

Our eyes are obviously of incredible importance. Yet, without realizing it, we may expose our eyes to danger every day simply by going outside. Over time, the sun’s rays can seriously damage the eyes and surrounding skin, leading to vision loss and conditions from cataracts and macular degeneration to eye and eyelid cancers. However, there are simple, effective ways to keep our eyes healthy throughout our lives.

  • Wear sunglasses year-round whenever you are out in the sun. Sunglasses should block 99-100% of both UVA and UVB light.
  • Wear a hat with at least a 3-inch brim. Hats can block as much as half of all UVB rays from your eyes and eyelids.
  • Finally, whenever you are outside, seek the shade, especially 10 a.m.-4 p.m., when sunlight is the most intense.

Babies and children are extra-sensitive to the sun, and protecting their skin is very important. Because infants’ skin is so sensitive, it’s better in the first 6 months to shield them from the sun rather than use sunscreen. It is especially important when the sun is at its greatest intensity.

It is best to dress your baby in a brimmed hat and lightweight clothing that fully covers the arms and legs. Sunglasses that filter out UV are also extremely important, since the melanin in babies’ eyes is still forming.

Car rides can lead to unintended sun exposure. Consider buying a UV shield, or tint your windows.

Once your baby reaches 6 months of age, you may introduce sunscreens. Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that offers a minimum sun protection factor of 15. You may want to test sunscreen on the inside of your baby’s wrist. If your baby has a little irritation, try another sunscreen. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out and reapply it at least every two hours.

Are you confused by all the sunscreen ingredients and options? Sunscreens are products combining several ingredients that help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet radiation from reaching the skin.

Two types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB, damage skin, age it prematurely and increase your risk of skin cancer. UVB is the chief culprit behind sunburn, while UVA rays penetrate the skin more deeply and are associated with wrinkling, leathering, sagging and other light-induced effects of aging.

SPF is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. Here’s how it works: If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 15 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 15 times longer, which is about 5 hours.

SPF 15 filters out about 93% of all incoming UVB rays. SPF 30 keeps out 97%, and SPF 50 keeps out 98%.

These may seem like small differences, but if you are light-sensitive or have a history of skin cancer, those extra percentage points will make a difference. To ensure you get the full SPF of a sunscreen, you need to apply 1 ounce, about a shot glass full. During a long day at the beach, one person should use around one-half to one-quarter of an 8-ounce bottle.

Sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin.

Reapplication of sunscreen is just as important as putting it on in the first place. Sunscreens should also be reapplied immediately after swimming, toweling off or sweating a great deal.

Did you know one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during the course of a lifetime? Following these simple steps will help prevent the risk of developing skin cancer and sunburns. Enjoy the outdoors; just be mindful of the amount of sun exposure and reapply, reapply, reapply.

Maribel Rojas is a registered nurse with the Victoria County Public Health Department.

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