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The sun is an important part of our lives. Sunny days have a positive impact on our mood, increase our level of physical activity, make many social events and gatherings possible, and even benefit our health by providing our bodies with essential vitamin D. Unfortunately, sun exposure also presents risk factors that can lead to skin or eye damage, and even skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Prevention and early detection are the best ways to keep your skin healthy. It’s important to learn what you can do to protect yourself and how to spot any possible signs of skin cancer.

Here are some easy ways to protect your skin from sun damage:

•Wear sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher. If you have fair skin or light hair, you are more susceptible to the sun’s rays and should use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.

•Choose sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” meaning that it protects against two types of harmful rays: UVA and UVB.

•Use waterproof sunscreen to make sure it stays on longer, even if you perspire or get wet.

•Reapply sunscreen often - usually every two hours, but sooner if you’ve been swimming or are perspiring heavily.

•Cover your whole body. Remember those areas that can be easy to forget, such as your ears, eyelids, lips, nose, hands, feet and the top of your head.

•Seek shade or avoid the sun during the peak hours of 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. The sun is strongest during those hours, even on cloudy days.

•Wear a hat with a wide brim to help shade your eyes, ears and head.

•Wear wrap-around sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection to safeguard your eyes.

•Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing such as long-sleeve shirts or long pants that protect a larger area of your skin. Tightly woven fabrics in dark or bright colors are best.

Sun safety for kids

Babies under six months old should never be exposed to the sun. Cover their skin and feet protectively. To protect their head and face, choose a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet, and use a stroller with a canopy or hood.

Children need to be active. Activities like playing outdoors are vital to their physical health. As a parent, you can make sun safety just as important. Always apply sunscreen as part of your child’s “getting ready to play” rituals. Encourage shade-friendly activities during peak sun hours.

Teenagers are under pressure to conform in many ways. Tanning can be one of those expectations. Help your child understand that tanning, especially tanning booths, are unsafe. Teach your teenagers about self-tanners, keep the sunscreen bottle in view, and make sure a bottle is included in their outdoor sports bags. Remember, you are your children’s role model, so let them see you protecting yourself from the sun.

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