Simple precautions in the sun
The rise in the incidence of skin cancers over the past decades is strongly related to increasingly popular outdoor activities and recreational exposure. Overexposure to sunlight is widely accepted as the underlying cause for harmful effects on the skin, eye and immune system. Experts believe that four out of five cases of skin cancer could be prevented, as UV damage is mostly avoidable.
Adopting the following simple precautions, adapted from the Sun Wise School Program can make all the difference. Shade, clothing and hats provide the best protection – applying sunscreen becomes necessary on those parts of the body that remain exposed like the face and hands. Sunscreen should never be used to prolong the duration of sun exposure.
- Limit time in the midday sun
The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. To the extent possible, limit exposure to the sun during these hours.
- Watch for the UV index
This important resource helps you plan your outdoor activities in ways that prevent overexposure to the sun’s rays. While you should always take precautions against overexposure, take special care to adopt sun safety practices when the UV Index predicts exposure levels of moderate or above.
- Use shade wisely
Seek shade when UV rays are the most intense, but keep in mind that shade structures such as trees, umbrellas or canopies do not offer complete sun protection. Remember the shadow rule: "Watch your shadow – Short shadow, seek shade!"
- Wear protective clothing
A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for your eyes, ears, face, and the back or your neck. Sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-A and UV-B protection will greatly reduce eye damage from sun exposure. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes will provide additional protection from the sun.
- Use sunscreen
Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 15+ liberally and re-apply every two hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors.
- Avoid sunlamps and tanning parlours
Sunbeds damage the skin and unprotected eyes and are best avoided entirely.
Sun protection programmes are urgently needed to raise awareness of the health hazards of UV radiation, and to achieve changes in lifestyle that will arrest the trend towards more and more skin cancers. Beyond the health benefits, effective education programmes can strengthen national economies by reducing the financial burden to health care systems caused by skin cancer and cataract treatments.
Children are in a dynamic state of growth, and are therefore more susceptible to environmental threats than adults. Many vital functions such as the immune system are not fully developed at birth, and unsafe environments may interfere with their normal development.
Schools are vitally important settings to promote sun protection and effective programmes can make a difference