July, 2009 for HealthTeacher
National UV Safety Issue
Keeping Children Safe in the Sun
July is Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month. It is also a time when the sun’s rays are most intense. UV safety is important in the protection of children as eighty percent of exposure occurs before the age of 18. Prolonged exposure to the sun can cause skin cancers and eye problems later such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and vision loss. Can you still have a good time outdoors? Absolutely, but it bears keeping an easy checklist handy and a few simple purchases.
UVA & UVB: Does the Difference Matter?
Yes. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, UVA rays easily pass through the ozone layer and are the cause for skin aging and even some skin cancers. UVB rays, which cause sunburn, are more potent and are the main cause of skin cancers.
What’s it To You?
The plain truth is that not protecting children from the sun can deal harsh consequences later on:
- Half of all new cancers are skin cancers.
- More than 1 million new cases of skin cancer will be diagnosed this year
- About 80 percent of the new skin cancer cases will be basal cell carcinoma, 16 percent are squamous cell carcinoma, and 4 percent are melanoma.
- Both basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma have a better than 95 percent cure rate if detected and treated early.
- At current rates one in 71 Americans have a risk of developing melanoma.
- The incidence of melanoma more than tripled among Caucasians between 1980 and 2001.
Source: American Cancer Society’s Facts & Figures
How to Avoid Skin Damage
Skin type can play a large role in a child’s chance for developing skin cancer. If a child has a lot of freckles, moles or has very fair skin, he or she is more at risk of developing skin cancer. The American Academy of Pediatricians suggests the following:
- Limiting a child’s time in the sun when rays are strongest: between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Using sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher (even on cloudy days) and reapplying every two hours when working or playing outdoors
- Seeking shade when possible
- Wearing a wide-brimmed hat to protect eyes, ears, face and the back of the neck
- Covering up with tightly woven, loose-fitting and full-length clothing
- Monitoring the UV index at http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html
The Eyes Have It, Too
People are more aware of the connection between the sun and skin cancer than they are the connection between the sun and eye damage. Though eyes don’t get “sunburned” in the same way skin does, the eyes are affected. The American Academy of Ophthalmology suggests doing the following to protect eyes during times of exposure:
- Insist that children wear sun glasses and a wide-brimmed hat when playing outdoors
- Be aware that snow, sand, grass and water can all reflect UV light
- An inexpensive pair of sunglasses could have more protection than an expensive pair. The tag should indicate a UV protection of between 99 and 100 percent
- Limit exposure to UV light during peak levels
- The darkness of the shade does not indicate UV protection. The chemicals added during lens making process determine the amount of UV protection
- If on the water or snow, wear goggles or sunglasses that wrap around the head to protect the sides of the eyes as well
The ABCDE Rule
Skin cancer can be treated successfully if it’s treated early. Any of the following are reasons to seek attention.
Asymmetry: A mole that, when divided in half, doesn’t match
Border: A mole with edges that are blurry or jagged
Color: Changes in the color include darkening, spread of color or loss of color
Diameter: A mole larger than 1/4 inch in diameter
Elevation: A mole that is raised above the skin and has a rough surface
More tips on UV safety and information:
The American Academy of Ophthalmology
Sun Safety Alliance
The SHADE Foundation
Cool in the Shade
The American Cancer Society
The POOL COOL Program