By: Jana L. Davidson, Education Content Specialist for the Progressive Agriculture Foundation
Did you know the skin is the body’s largest organ? Our skin protects us from heat, sunlight, injury and infection; however, many of us do not make it a priority to protect our skin on a daily basis. July serves as UV (Ultraviolet) Safety Month and reminds us why damage to our skin today can have serious long-term effects.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, approximately 90% of non-melanoma and 86% of melanoma skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. On average, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had more than five sunburns. However, regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma by about 40% and the risk of developing melanoma by 50%.
Safeguard your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun by following these 6 simple steps:
- Wear clothing that will protect your skin from the harmful ultraviolet rays. Don’t be fooled by cloudy days and winter months, as harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are still present.
- Protect your eyes. According to the CDC, some of the more common sun-related vision problems include cataracts, macular degeneration, and pterygium (non-cancerous growth of the conjunctiva that can obstruct vision) are caused by exposure to the sun. Be sure to wear a wide-brimmed hat or wrap-around style sunglasses with 99 or higher UV block.
- Avoid sunburns, as they significantly increase one’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.
- Seek shade, especially during 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are their strongest.
- Use extra caution when near reflective surfaces, like water, snow, and sand that can reflect damaging rays. Also, use extra caution when at higher altitudes due to less atmosphere to absorb UV radiation.
- Generously apply broad-spectrum sunscreen over exposed skin. Be sure to re-apply every two hours, especially after sweating or swimming.
Last year, sun safety was a topic taught at 36% of all Progressive Agriculture Safety Days®. During the sun safety station, presenters explain the behaviors that can help prevent skin cancer, help participants understand the importance of skin care and skin cancer prevention, and describe how to complete a skin self-exam and identification of skin cancer warning signs.
Do you want to coordinate a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day® for your community? Visit www.progressiveag.org or call us toll-free at 888-257-3529 for more information or to apply. With lessons for more than 28 topics, each Safety Day has the freedom to focus on safety and health-related issues appropriate for their community. Annually, more than 400 local community and school Progressive Agriculture Safety Days® are conducted throughout North America.
Photo: During a sun safety station at a Progressive Agriculture Safety Day®, participants take part in hands-on activities involving ultraviolet detecting beads to learn the dangers of excessive sun exposure.