By Ronald G. Rios
Middlesex County Freeholder Deputy Director Chairperson, Committee of Public Health and Education
Summer weather means lots of fun in the sun and hours lounging on the beach, but too much unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage and even cancer. With the right precautions, you can still enjoy fun in the sun while greatly reducing the chance of developing skin cancer.
Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause immediate effects, such as sunburn, and long-term effects, such as skin cancer. Understanding the UV INDEX can help you prevent damage to your skin and by knowing the signs and symptoms of skin cancer you can readily detect changes to your skin.
The UV INDEX provides a daily forecast of the expected risk of overexposure to the sun. The scale is from 1 to 11+; 1 being low and 11+ being extreme. From exposure level 6 through 11+ (High – Extreme) protection against sun damage is needed. Here are some effective strategies:
- Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Use sunscreen SPF 15+ or higher
- Wear clothing to protect exposed skin
- Seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
You can view the daily UV INDEX in your area by visiting the following Web site: http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/uvindex.html.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. It is also one of the most preventable. By practicing daily sun protection, you not only reduce the risk of developing skin cancer, but you also may decrease the likelihood of recurrence. The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, which are highly curable. The third most common skin cancer is melanoma. This form of cancer is more dangerous, especially among young people. Additionally, about 65 percent to 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays.
Signs and symptoms of melanoma may include a change in the shape, color or size of an existing mole. Melanoma also may appear as a new mole. By checking your skin regularly you can detect melanoma early. This is where knowing your ABCs are important. Here is what you should watch for:
- A- asymmetry: The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other.
- B- border: The edges of the mole are often ragged, notched, blurred or irregular in outline; the pigment may spread into the surrounding skin.
- C- color: The color of the mole is uneven.
- D- diameter: There is a change in size in the mole, usually an increase.
If you have a questions or concerns about skin moles it is important to talk to your doctor.
On Saturday, July 17, the Middlesex County Public Health Department will participate in “Choose Your Cover,” a statewide initiative that promotes risk education and skin cancer screening. This year public health staff will be at the Milltown Pool in Milltown and Crystal Springs Aquatic Center in East Brunswick. For more information about “Choose Your Cover” visit http://www.chooseyourcover.org and for more information about skin cancer prevention visit the following Web sites:
So remember to check the UV INDEX, apply sunscreen, and have a safe and healthy summer.
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