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Protect Skin From Damaging Sun Rays
By Jamie Vickers
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Whether hitting the slopes, enjoying the beach or working in the garden, overexposure to ultraviolet rays poses a threat to healthy skin of children and adults.
Linda Patterson, health education specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service, said that since most skin cancer is caused by ultraviolet radiation from the sun, most may be prevented.
"A little precaution during childhood can go a long way toward a more healthy life," Patterson said. "Generally, if sun causes any redness or discomfort, it is too much exposure."
Sunlight includes both ultraviolet A and B light (UVA and UVB), which cause tanning and burning of the skin. Fair complexions increase the risk of sunburn and overexposure, but excessive ultraviolet light can cause problems in all skin types.
"The amount of radiation exposure over a lifetime can be dangerous for those exposed to the sun in outdoor recreation or occupation, or cosmetic tanning," Patterson said.
Most people receive 80 percent of their lifetime exposure to the sun by age 18. Unprotected exposure to the sun during childhood and adolescence more than doubles the chances of skin cancer later in life.
Wear more sun screen or protective clothing when near reflective surfaces as these reflect up to 85 percent of the sun's damaging rays. More rays are reflected from snow than from water.
"Use protection while swimming because most UV rays pass through the top layer of water," Patterson said.
Tanning beds are primarily UVA and are less likely to produce obvious burning of the skin, but still can cause damage.
"UVA light is not safer than sunlight or UVB, and it carries the same risks as other types of ultraviolet sunlight," Patterson said. "The effects of UVA radiation may not be as apparent until damage is done, because UVA radiation goes deeper into the skin."
Some medications and medicated soaps or creams may combine with the effects of sunlight to cause intense itching, burn, rashes and swelling. Risks of any medications should be discussed with a doctor or pharmacist.
Follow guidelines to avoid excessive exposure to ultraviolet light. These include:
- Use sun screen with skin protection factor of 15 to 30 which is labeled as effective in screening UVA and UVB. Reapply often to the nose, feet, earlobes and bald spots.
- Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Wear hats and tightly woven clothing to protect from exposure.
- Check labels for sunglasses that block most UVA and UVB light.