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Cruz Bay
Sunday, October 2, 2022


School is out. Summer is here. This means more time outdoors for most of us but certainly for children and adolescents. As you may be aware, the Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently launched the second year of a national, multi-year skin cancer prevention initiative. Scientific reports tell us that approximately one million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year.
Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays is the most important environmental factor leading to the development of skin cancer. Exposure to the sun can cause acute and chronic injury to the skin. There is no other way to say it. Any change in skin color after time outdoors-whether suntan or sunburn-means damage from the sun's UV rays. If you're tanned, you're toast. Tanned skin is damaged skin.
UV rays from the sun can damage exposed unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes. Yet, it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.
Ultraviolet light that injures the skin can be classified by wavelength into UVA and UVB. UVB wavelengths cause more damage, but ten to 100 times more UVA reaches the earth's surface. Most topical sunscreens contain combinations of organic chemicals that absorb the UV light. They are labeled by SPF (sun protection factor). Most people do not apply enough sunscreen to achieve the claimed SPF. If you apply an SPF of 15, your true SPF may only be 3-7. This means that you are only giving yourself 3- 7 minutes of cover before you would be exposed to the same degree of sun without the sunscreen. Multiple applications are usually needed.
Despite the fact that we all are at risk to some degree, some individuals need to be more concerned. If your skin is light colored-white, light Latino or light black–; if you have a family history of skin cancer; if you have had skin cancer yourself; if you have chronic exposure to the sun; if you have a history of sunburns early in life; if you have a large number of moles; and if you freckle easily which is an indicator of sun sensitivity and sun damage, then you are at risk.
Seek shade under a tree, umbrella, or other shelter. Cover up with a shirt, beach cover-up, pants or other clothing-the tighter the fabric weave, the better. Get a hat with a wide brim to protect your head and neck-common sites for skin cancers to occur. Grab your shades to protect the tender skin around the eyes. Rub it on – sunscreen and lip balm with higher SPFs based on skin color and generously applied 30 minutes before going outdoors.

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