July is UV Awareness Month

July 2, 2024

With sweltering summer weather already here in East Tennessee, the month of July is UV safety awareness month. This is fitting as many of us already know over exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays most commonly occur during the hot summer months. Exposure can lead to sunburn, cataracts, macular degeneration, and skin cancer.

What are ultraviolet rays?

The two main types are UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays lead to aging (fine lines and wrinkles) and UVB rays lead to sunburn and skin cancers including melanoma. While UVB rays cannot penetrate through clouds or windows, UVA rays can penetrate both. Therefore, skin damage can still occur even on cloudy days, driving, or working near a window. It is also important to understand that exposure to either type of UV rays increases your risk of developing skin cancers.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most PREVENTABLE cancers as well. There are multiple ways we can help prevent overexposure to both UVA and UVB rays.

Sunscreen Use

One of the best ways to help with over exposure is using sunscreen. When selecting a sunscreen, you want to make sure you always select a sunscreen with an SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of at least 30 as this will protect you from 97% of UVB Rays. Also make sure you are looking at the sunscreens to make sure they have both UVB and UVA ray protection as not all sunscreens do. Make sure to apply a generous amount of sunscreen.  Sunscreen should always be reapplied at least every two hours. However, we know during these hot months we all enjoy spending time at the lake or by the pool. Remember if you are swimming and drying off with a towel sunscreen should be applied immediately after if you continue to have sun exposure.

Other Protection Tips

Although sunscreen is one of the best ways to help with protection, do not solely rely on sunscreens. Other sun protection tips include:

  • Wearing a wide brimmed hat which can help protect both skin and eyes
  • Consider wearing UV protective clothing if you are going to have extended sun exposure
  • Make sure you are wearing sunglasses, and look for 100% UV protection for both UVA and UVB rays
  • Remember the sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. so be especially diligent with sun protection during these hours

Remember, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States but also the most preventable type of cancer. Discuss ways you can help protect yourself and loved ones with your primary care physician today.