July is Ultraviolet Safety Awareness Month, a tradition dedicated to raising awareness about the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation and the importance of protecting our skin and eyes from the harmful effects of the sun. It is held in July because most of the population spends much more time outside during the summer due to the warmer weather. UV Safety Month aims to educate people about the risks of prolonged sun exposure and promote healthy habits to prevent skin cancer and other related health problems.
What is Ultraviolet Radiation?
UV radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation emanating from the sun that has three types. It can also be emitted by artificial sources such as tanning beds and lamps. The three types of ultraviolet radiation are:
- Ultraviolet A (UVA)- Penetrates the skin’s middle layer.
- Ultraviolet B (UVB)- Penetrates the outer layer of skin.
- Ultraviolet C (UVC)- Most of these are absorbed by the Earth’s ozone layer. Exposed only through sunlamps or tanning beds.
The longer an individual is exposed, the greater the risk of developing some form of sun damage if left unprotected. UV radiation is invisible to the human eye but can cause numerous health problems, including skin cancer, eye damage, and premature aging.
The Danger of Skin Cancer
According to the American Academy of Dermatology, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with more than 9,500 people diagnosed daily. The most dangerous type of skin cancer is melanoma. Melanoma develops in the melanocyte cells, the cells that produce melanin which gives your skin its unique color. The definite cause of this disease is still unclear, but exposure to UV radiation increases your risk of developing it. Spotting the warning signs of this disease is crucial for prevention, and there are parameters set to ensure you can spot them.
Be sure to remember the ABCDE Rule:
- Asymmetry: Half of a mole may not match the shape of the other.
- Border: Edges may be blurred or uneven.
- Color: Different shades of brown and black.
- Diameter: Diameter more prominent than 6 millimeters or has gotten significantly larger.
- Evolving: Has been growing or changing color, shape, and size.
Skin cancer is highly preventable. Forming simple habits, such as wearing protective clothing and sunscreen, and seeking shade, can significantly reduce the risk of developing this disease. Here are some tips to help you stay safe in the sun during Ultraviolet Safety Month and beyond:
- Wear protective clothing: Cover up with clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats, that provide maximum protection from the sun’s harmful rays.
- Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all exposed skin, including your lips. Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- Seek shade: When possible, seek shade during peak hours of sunlight, typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear sunglasses: Choose sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays to protect your eyes from damage.
- Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds emit harmful UV radiation and can increase the risk of skin cancer and premature aging.
Ultraviolet Safety Month serves as a reminder to protect ourselves from the harmful effects of the sun. We can reduce the risk of developing skin cancer and other related health problems by taking simple steps to protect our skin and eyes. So, prioritize UV safety this July and beyond and encourage others to do the same.
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