July Is UV Safety Awareness Month

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As the sun-splashed days of summer surround us, Missouri health officials are urging residents to protect their skin and their eyesight from the damaging effects of the sun.

Bright sunshine provides great opportunities for outdoor fun and work. But the sun’s ultraviolet light also increases the risk of cataracts and fosters about 20,000 new cases of skin cancer every year in Missouri,

About 95 percent of skin cancer cases are caused by exposure to ultraviolet light, nearly all of which comes from sunlight. Missourians who spend time outdoors, health officials said, should make sunscreen and a nifty pair of shades part of their summertime routine, health officials said.

“Many Missourians spend much of their summer outside, whether working, gardening, swimming or participating in sports and other activities,” said Margaret Donnelly, director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. “Wearing sunglasses can save a person’s vision and using sunscreen on a regular basis can prevent painful sunburns while reducing the chances of developing skin cancer.”

July is UV Safety Awareness Month to highlight the dangers of ultraviolet light. The Missouri health department offers the following sun safety tips:

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* Use a sunscreen with an Sun Protection Factor of at least 15. It should be applied at least 20 minutes prior to being exposed to the sun and reapplied every two hours. An SPF of 15 filters out approximately 95 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. An SPF of 30 is slightly better but offers only about three percent more protection.

* Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when possible.

* Wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeve shirt, pants and a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck.

* Wear sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV-A and UV-B rays to protect the eyes. Exposure to bright sunlight may increase the risk of developing cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and growths on the eye, including cancer.

Even 15 minutes in the sun without protection can harm the skin. Skin turning pink, red or brown is a sign that damage has occurred, increasing the risk for skin cancer in the future.

While most skin cancer can be cured if it is detected early, prevention lessens the need for surgery to remove the cancer and even saves lives. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that nearly 10,000 people die from skin cancer every year in the United States.

“Whether you’re having a picnic or planting crops, watching a baseball game or watering your lawn, you need to protect yourself from the sun,” said Susan Thomas, manager for the health department’s Comprehensive Cancer Control program. “Taking a little extra time to apply sunscreen on a regular basis will help keep your skin healthy and could add years to your life.”

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