Don't Fry this Summer

The Bigger Picture

It's easy for farmers to ignore or forget to apply protection from the sun's rays.

Published on: June 3, 2013
 

I can say it. I've had cancer – skin cancer. Fortunately, mine was basal-cell carcinoma – the most common kind and fairly easy to treat.

It did require outpatient surgery (with stitches), however. That was about 20 years ago. I have never forgotten the surgeon showing me slides of examples of people he treated for skin cancer. Some were pretty gruesome – huge patches of tissue removed from people's faces, heads, backs, etc. I see my dermatologist every year for a checkup. He typically finds a few "pre-cancerous lesions", which he "kills" with liquid nitrogen. A couple, small red blotches for a day or two is a small price to pay for peace of mind.

A basal-cell carcinoma
A basal-cell carcinoma

With very few sunny days so far this spring, overexposure to the sun's rays is probably the last thing on anyone's mind. But, rest assured, hot, sunny days will return. Any my dermatologist reminds me I need to protect myself from the sun from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

It really only takes a few simple steps to protect your health and prevent skin cancer throughout the summer.

“While we’re making progress toward restoring the Earth’s ozone layer, Americans need to take steps now for extra protection from harmful UV rays and skin cancer,” says Janet McCabe, deputy assistant administrator for EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation. “Americans can stay safe under the sun and enjoy the outdoors by taking simple steps such as using sunscreen and wearing UV-blocking sunglasses.”

“If current trends continue, one in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime, and many of these skin cancers could be prevented by reducing UV exposure from the sun and indoor tanning devices,” adds Tom Frieden at the Center for Disease Control. “Of particular concern is the increase we are seeing in rates of melanoma, a potentially deadly form of skin cancer. In the United States, melanoma is one of the most common cancers among people ages 15 to 29 years.” 

To make it easier for people to choose products that effectively reduce the health risks of UV overexposure, the FDA has issued new labeling rules for sunscreen products. These include:

  • Sunscreens proven to protect against both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays can be labeled “Broad Spectrum.”  Both UVB and UVA radiation contribute to the sun’s damaging effects.
  • Sunscreen products that meet the criteria for being called “Broad Spectrum” and have a Sunscreen Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 or higher may state that they reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging when used as directed with other sun protection measures. 
  • Any product that is not “Broad Spectrum,” or has an SPF below 15, must have a warning stating that the product has not been shown to help prevent skin cancer or early skin aging. 
  • New water resistance claims on the front label must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. 

Here are some here are some tips to help you enjoy the outdoors safely throughout the summer:

  • Seek shade, not sun: Seek the shade when the sun’s rays are strongest; avoid sunburns, intentional tanning; use extra caution near reflective surfaces like water and sand.
  • Wear protective clothing: Wear sun-protective clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and UV-blocking sunglasses.

And I strongly encourage you to see a dermatologist if you notice any unusual spots on your skin.