Annually, more than 2 million new cases of skin cancer occur in the U.S. Over the past 30 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined, i.e. breast, prostate, lung, colon. According to the Sun Safety Alliance (www.sunsafetyalliance.org), one out of five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.
Skin cancer varies in numbers and types. One type of skin cancer is Melanoma. Of the seven most common cancers, it is the least common, yet, the deadliest form of skin cancer. It is the only one whose incidence is increasing, killing one person every hour (57 minutes). In 2010, over 60,000 people in the U.S. were diagnosed with melanoma of the skin; over 9,000 died from it. Melanoma is caused by exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet light and artificial sources of light in tanning beds. Although UV rays are its strongest during the summer, exposure to UV rays can occur throughout the year. According to the Center for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow reflect 85-90% of the sun’s UV rays.
The strength of the sun’s UV radiation is determined by the UV index developed by the National Weather Service and EPA. The UV index is based on a scale of 1 to 11+. 1 indicates low levels of exposure and 11+ indicates extremely high levels of exposure. The higher the index level the exposure and strength of the sun's UV rays becomes greater and the faster you can burn! When the index level is very low, 0-2, sunburn can occur in an hour/60 minutes. When the index level is very high, 10+, sunburn can occur in 10 minutes or less.
Sun Safety Week is June 1st – 7th; it is a reminder that one should take the necessary precautions to prevent skin cancer. Prince William County Department of Fire and Rescue in conjunction with national health organizations and associations urge the public to take precautions in protecting you and your loved ones against the sun’s harmful rays by following these simple safety tips:
- Cover up
- Wear clothing to protect the skin
- Wear a wide brim cap/hat
- To shade the face, head, ears, and neck
- Apply sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays
- Sources indicate that 60 to 80 percent of total lifetime sun exposure occurs in the first 18 years of life. Use sunblock SPF 15 or higher from birth to 18 years of age to help lower the risk of certain types of skin cancer (by up to 78%):
- Adults (18 years & older) - SPF 15 or higher
- Children (under 6 years old) - SPF 30 or higher
- Apply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, perspiring, or toweling off
- Wear UVA and UVB protective sunglasses
- Protects eyes from developing cataracts and other eye diseases
- Seek shade at peak sun hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.)
- Avoid indoor tanning
No matter the time of year, when enjoying outdoor activities, practice sun safety even during overcast days. Pay special attention to seniors and children who are most vulnerable to being overexposed to the sun which can lead to sun poisoning resulting in life-threatening effects.
For more information, visit American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org.