June 9, 2010
Common Sense On: Sun Safety
By Senator Tom Harkin
It is that time of year again when days become longer and nights become shorter, and when the beautiful summer weather calls everyone to enjoy the sun’s rays. Simply being outdoors during the summer months can be quite a pleasure. But it is also important to take precautions when heading outdoors.
For those with fair skin, being over-exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can have harmful effects. In fact, one in five of us will develop skin cancer in our lifetimes, making it the most common form of cancer in the country. And as the years go on, this number has only been rising.
But skin isn’t the only victim. Long-term exposure to UV rays can also cause immune system suppression and premature aging.
In particular, we need to encourage the young people in our lives to take precautions. Most Americans receive 50 to 80 percent of their lifetime sun exposure before they reach the age of 18. Just one or two blistering sunburns in childhood may double the risk of developing melanoma.
Getting some sun exposure does have its benefits, the most important being the direct intake of Vitamin D, helping us to absorb calcium for stronger and healthier bones. And spending time outdoors has countless advantages as well, such as the development of a more active lifestyle.
But we need to caution our loved ones from spending too much time in the sun and encourage them to take other precautions, such as wearing extra clothing, always wearing sunscreen and wearing a hat.
Here are six basic tips for protecting yourself and your family year round:
- When outdoors, use sunscreens rated SPF 15 or higher. Apply the lotion liberally, uniformly and frequently. Make sure the sunscreen you are using is broad-spectrum sunscreen (to filter UVB and UVA rays).
- Stay out of the midday sun (from 10am to 4pm) whenever you can. You also should protect yourself from UV radiation reflected by sand, water, snow and ice. UV radiation can go through light clothing, windshields, windows and clouds.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants of tightly woven fabrics, a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses that absorb UV.
- Stay away from sunlamps and tanning booths.
- Do not sunbathe – period.
- Teach your children good sun-protection habits at an early age.
Being outdoors and enjoying the great Iowa weather is highly encouraged! Just be careful and remember that simply protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful rays can help you live a longer and healthier life.