FALLS CHURCH, Virginia —
Summer is here, and that means sunny weather is here to stay. Soaking up the sun is one of the best parts about summer. However, make sure to protect your skin when enjoying the sun-filled days ahead.
Too much unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet, or UV, rays can cause sunburn, eye damage, and skin damage in the form of premature wrinkles, according to the American Cancer Society. It can also cause skin cancer. Depending on your risk for developing skin cancer, TRICARE covers your skin cancer screening exams.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, “Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States.” In as little as 15 minutes, UV rays can damage your skin. Preventing your exposure to UV light from the sun and avoiding artificial sources like tanning beds and sunlamps, is the best way to lower your risk of skin damage and skin cancer.
There are many easy ways to protect your skin while outdoors in the sun. Follow these sun safety tips to help protect the whole family this summer:
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen: Apply a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 or SPF 30 on all parts of exposed skin before you go outside. This is a good practice even on slightly cloudy or cool days. Remember, sunscreen wears off. You need to reapply sunscreen if you stay out in the sun for more than two hours, and any time after swimming, sweating, or toweling off. Before you use your sunscreen from last year, check its expiration date.
- Wear clothing to cover your skin: In addition to sunscreen, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts when possible to provide protection from UV rays. A T-shirt or a beach cover-up can also offer some protection.
- Use shade: Seek shade under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter when the sun’s summer rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. But don’t rely on the shade alone. You still need to remember to use protective measures, like sunscreen and protective clothing, when you’re outside even on cloudy days.
- Wear a hat to provide upper body shade: Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears and neck.
- Wear sunglasses: According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, protect your eyes, vision, and the skin around your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound sunglasses provide additional protection.
If you notice changes in your skin, such as a new growth, a sore that doesn’t heal, or a change in the appearance of a mole, talk to your doctor. TRICARE covers skin cancer exams for people who are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer. This includes individuals with a family or personal history of skin cancer, increased occupational or recreational exposure to sunlight, or clinical evidence of precursor lesions.
To learn more about sun safety and skin cancer, visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm and American Cancer Society at www.cancer.org/latest-news/stay-sun-safe-this-summer.html.