July is UV awareness month.

Central Washington is known for an abundance of sunshine that lifts the spirit and encourages outdoor activity.  Research shows that daily exposure to sunlight is important for proper absorption of vitamin D. However, overexposure to damaging Ultra Violet rays from the sun can put you at risk for multiple health concerns from skin damage in the form of dryness, sun spots and wrinkles, to melanoma; the deadliest form of skin cancer.

How much do you know about UV safety?  Take the “Fact or Fiction?” quiz below.

  1. There is no risk free way to get a tan (unless you use a self-tanning product).
  • FACT:  In the past, society associated health and vibrancy with tanned skin, however a tan is a form of damage to the skin and a risk to your health.  If you are outside for more than a few minutes, you should take steps to protect your skin.  Remember, tanning bed lights are just as damaging as UV rays from the sun.
  1. I don’t need to worry about skin cancer because I don’t get sunburned.
  • FICTION:  Even occasional over-exposure to UV rays will increase your risk of melanoma cancer. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., you should limit your sun exposure during these hours.
  1. Sunscreen should be applied to babies as soon as they are born.
  • FICTION:  Most pediatricians recommend waiting to apply sunscreen until babies are at least six months old because the chemicals used may be too harsh for baby’s sensitive skin.  Keep baby safely in the shade or dressed in protective clothing including a face shading hat.
  1. You only have to worry about sun damage in the summer.
  • FICTION:  Ultra violet rays are the same year round and can cause the same damage.  It is more likely to have exposed skin when the temperature is warmer.
  1. Red haired people with freckles and blue eyes are most likely to develop skin cancer.
  • Fact: In general, fair-skinned people with freckles, those with light colored hair and those with light colored eyes burn the easiest.  The damage from burning puts them most at risk for developing skin cancer or other long-term effects of UV exposure.
  1. Using a higher Sun Protection Factor (SPF) sunscreen offers more protection from the sun.
  • FACT:  However, SPF is an approximate way to measure a sunscreens ability to prevent UVB damage.  For example SPF 15 will block 93% of UVB rays and SPF of 50 will block 98% so a significantly higher SPF doesn’t equate to significantly higher protection.  It is best to use water-resistant broad spectrum sunscreen to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.  All sunscreens should be reapplied every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
  1. You must have exposure to the sun in order to get Vitamin D.
  • FICTION:  You don’t need to increase your risk of sun cancer to get Vitamin D.  Most of the required amounts of Vitamin D can be found in fortified milk, cheeses and yogurt, fortified cereal, and oily fish like salmon and tuna. Small amounts of sun exposure in your daily life will make up the rest of the need.
  1. Certain medications can increase your sensitivity to the sun.
  • FACT:  Some common medications are photosensitive, causing an allergic reaction such as rashes and other unpleasant skin conditions. Photosensitivity can also make you more prone to sunburn and a reaction may not be evident until several hours after exposure.  Talk to your physician or pharmacist to see if your medications may put you at risk and enjoy the sunlight from a shaded viewpoint.
  1. The only reason people wear sunglasses is to look cool.
  • FICTION:   Strong sunlight and UV rays can damage your eyes and the sensitive skin surrounding them. Check to see if your favorite shades block both glare and UV rays.  Consider wearing wraparound sunglasses as they offer the most protection as well as look cool.
  1. The best way to protect your skin outside is wearing long sleeved shirt and pants, a broad brimmed hat, wraparound sunglasses and SPF 15 (or more) broad spectrum sunscreen on any exposed areas.
  • FACT!


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