Anyone can be burned by the sun. Sun induced skin cancers are the most common cancers of Caucasian adults. The incidence of skin cancer is increasing in epidemic proportions in our country. The risk of developing a melanoma, a deadly skin cancer, doubles every 10 years. Protecting skin from the sun’s rays could prevent about 80 percent of skin cancers. Harmful ultraviolet rays (UV) reflect off water and light colored surfaces, such as concrete, water, sand and snow. UV rays also reach below the surface of water.

The following are tips for helping workers avoid sunburn:

  • Use sunscreen every day of the year. Even on cloudy days up to 80 percent of the sun’s harmful rays will reach the earth.
  • Wear a sunscreen everyday that has at least a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15.
  • Use plenty of sunscreen. Studies have shown that the average person uses about 1/2 the amount of sunscreen that the manufacturer used when determining the SPF value. The average adult requires one ounce (oz) of sunscreen for adequate total body coverage. Children require about half this amount.
  • Apply sunscreens to dry skin about 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors.
  • Reapply sunscreen after sweating, swimming or toweling off.
  • Understand Sun Protection Factors (SPF). A SPF of 8 filters out 86 percent of ultraviolet radiation; SPF 15 blocks 92 percent of damaging rays; and SPF 30 blocks 96 percent of ultraviolet rays.
  • Use stick balms for lips and ears. These can also be used around the eyes to avoid stinging.
  • Wear Hats. Each inch of hat brim can lower your lifetime risk of skin cancer by 10 percent.
  • Minimize sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the worst and greatest quantity of ultraviolet light exists. If your shadow is longer than you are tall, it is okay to be outside.
  • Wear protective eyewear. Sunglasses with UV-blocking filters are very important. The eye is the second most common site in which melanoma develop.
  • Be aware that some medications can increase sensitivity to the sun’s rays. Certain antibiotics, birth control pills, diuretics, antihistamines and antidepressants may cause increased sensitivity to the sun.
  • Avoid using tanning parlors. Tanning devices can damage the skin and eyes, as much as direct sunlight, and have been linked to increased risk of developing melanoma.
  • Check the UV Index each day and dress accordingly. The UV Index is a prediction of the sun’s UV radiation on any given day at noon.

Sunscreens absorb most of the sun’s rays before they penetrate the skin, but some still gets through. Sunblocks such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide block or reflect the sun’s rays. Water-resistant sunscreens protect skin for 40 minutes of water exposure; waterproof sunscreens protect for 80 minutes.

Spray, Gel and Lotion forms are now available. Sprays work best on the body and are fun for children. Gels work well for oily skin or when working and sweating. Lotions help dry skin.

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