Overexposure to Ultraviolet Radiation can cause serious damage to our bodies. Stay educated and in the shade this summer season.
We all love a good summertime soak in the sun — if you’re lucky, the warm weather will bring outdoor amusements like hiking, barbecuing, and hanging out near the pool or on a faraway beach.
And though you may not know it, a moderate dose of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun actually does our body good by creating vitamin D, which keeps our bones and teeth healthy.
Too much frolicking in the sun’s rays, however, can be harmful. In recognition of July being National UV Safety month, here’s some important information — along with a few tips — to keep in mind as you head to the beach.
Skin Cancer from UV
A serious risk of excessive exposure to sunlight, skin cancer is the uncontrolled multiplication of abnormal skin cells. It happens when skin cells become damaged, prompting genetic defects that result in their rapid growth and the eventual formation of tumors.
Tanning beds are dangerous for the same reason, which means it’s time to think twice about our obsession with getting that summer “glow.”
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, accounting for 3.5 million cases in the U.S. every year. 75,000 of those cases are melanoma, a more dangerous type of skin cancer.
Melanoma begins in the melanocytes — the cells in our bottom layer of skin that produce skin pigment, or melanin. It grows and spreads faster than other types of skin cancers that originate in the outermost layer of the skin.
Stay vigilant: early signs of the cancer may appear as new skin irregularities, particularly changes in the appearance of moles or entirely new growths.
Itchiness, pain, open wounds that don’t heal, and developments of rough or scaly skin are also signs to watch out for — and all of them require a doctor’s visit. Skin cancer can often be prevented if these warning signs are detected at their onset.
How else can we protect ourselves? The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services advises taking a number of preventative steps, some of which you may not know about.
For instance, do you know what type of sunscreen you need to protect against both ultraviolet A and B rays? The answer is a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 (although there is no proven benefit of using SPF values over 50).
And if you stay in the sun all day, you should apply six ounces of sunscreen, usually equivalent to an entire tube, with generous reapplications every hour and especially after swimming.
Seeking shade between 10 am and 4 pm, wearing high-coverage clothing, and donning hats and sunglasses for eye protection (UV radiation can cause cell damage in the eyes) are also smart preventative measures to take.
Need Help? Here’s Where to Turn
Acting responsibly under the sun takes effort and acute observation – remember that the most proactive thing you can do is visit the doctor if you notice unusual changes in your skin.
And in these kinds of situations, the question of health insurance shouldn’t be preventing you from seeking treatment. If you don’t have insurance, or if your premiums are too high for the checkup you require, services like SingleCare can help.
SingleCare provides access to healthcare professionals when you need them at an affordable, one-time price, without the expensive premiums of insurance plans. Moreover, you can view rates (which are discounted up to 50%) for visits with partnering doctors before making an appointment, so there are no surprises.
SingleCare is currently available in Washington, DC, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. If you do not live in one of the aforementioned places, sign up now so you can be alerted when SingleCare has expanded to your area.
Don’t fool around when it comes to your health this summer. Spread the sunscreen, as well as awareness about UV exposure, and keep the sun on your good side.
(Main image credit; Michael Dorausch/flickr)