Summer is here and in full swing, which means the sun will be shining its brightest. While we may all love that extra bit of sunlight throughout the day and can be healthy in many ways, the direct sunlight of the summer months is also a source of ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure. Therefore, July is recognized as UV Safety Awareness Month.
While UV rays only account for a slight portion of all the sun’s rays, they may be the most dangerous in terms of their effect on the skin. UV radiation is a major risk factor for many skin cancers, therefore the more you’re exposed to them, the greater the risk of developing it. However, UV rays aren’t limited to just the sunlight. UV radiation exposure can also occur in tanning beds, mercury lamps, and welding equipment among other things.
According to the American Cancer Society, the strength of the UV rays determines how much a person is exposed. The following is a list of factors that determine the strength of UV rays.
- Time of Day – UV rays are strongest between 10 AM to 4 PM
- Season – UV rays are strongest during the spring and summer months
- Equator – The further from the equator the weaker the exposure
- Altitude – UV rays reach the ground more frequently at higher elevations
- Reflection off Surfaces – Surfaces like water, sand, or snow allow UV rays to bounce and ultimately lead to more exposure.
UV rays have short and long wavelengths that can penetrate the outer and middle layer of your skin. In addition to sunburn and premature skin aging, UV radiation can lead to vision issues like cataracts, suppression of your immune system, and of course skin cancer. So how can you better protect yourself during the upcoming months? Per the USVA, you can lower your risk by doing the following:
- Cover Up – Hats, long-sleeved shirts, and sunglasses are all options that can help shield your body from exposure
- Stay in the Shade – Staying in a shaded area midday, especially during 10 AM – 4 PM can help keep you protected
- Choose the Right Sunscreen – Be sure to buy sunscreen SPF 15 or above that protects against UV-A and UV-B rays
- Use (the right amount of) Sunscreen – It’s recommended to apply a least a palmful every few hours, even if it is waterproof.
Don’t let the UV rays ruin your summer. Make sure to take the proper precautions to stay safe during your fun in the sun. Be sure to reach out to your doctor if you have questions or need sunscreen recommendations that fit your health plan.