Play it safe in the sun

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 14, 2003

The Extension has received a grant from the Alabama Department of Public Health to provide skin cancer education.

This is the perfect time of year for it, because the Ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun are strongest in late spring and early summer.

And it is UV rays that cause the damage to skin that can lead to skin cancer.

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By age 65, an estimated 40 to 50 percent of Americans probably will have at least one episode of skin cancer.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but there are certain risk factors that make it more likely.

There are three types of skin cancer.

Basal cell and squamous cell are the most common, but melanoma is the most likely to cause death.

Melanoma can spread to distant organs, most often the lungs and liver.

It is very important that all types be detected and treated as early as possible.

Because children spend so much time in the sun, make sure that they are protected.

On average, children get three times as much sun exposure as adults.

Just one bad, blistering sunburn during childhood can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life.

Here are some precautions that every member of your family should take:

Use a sunscreen n use it year round.

It should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.

Wear a hat n choose one with a wide brim n at least 3 inches n that will protect your eyes, ears, face and the back of your neck.

Canvas is good.

Cover up n wear long sleeves and long pants.

They should be loose fitting and made of tightly woven fabric.

Wear sunglasses n the area around the eyes can get skin cancer, and sun damage can cause cataracts.

A wrap-around style offers more protection.

Seek shade n stay in the shade when you can, especially during the hottest part of the day.

Some of us think that a tan is a sign of good health, but many doctors will tell you that tanned skin is damaged skin.

Much of the information that I read warns against frequent use of tanning beds, as well.

Enjoy the coming spring and summer days, but be sun-wise.