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Do you know what the largest organ in your body is?

Here’s a hint – you see it every day!

That’s right – your skin covers the biggest amount of ground in the body. But even so, many people don’t give their skin the love and attention it deserves when it comes to staying safe in the sun.

August is Summer Sun Safety Month, and our team has put together some helpful tips and reminders for keeping your skin healthy and beautiful while you’re soaking up the rays this summer. 

Why Should We Care?

We’re talking about the biggest organ in your body, but if that fact isn’t enough, there’s plenty more good reason to make sure you take care of it during the harsh summer months.

First and foremost, since your skin quite literally covers a ton of surface area, it’s one of the most commonly affected areas when it comes to cancer – about 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in the United States every year. In addition to that, Melanoma (a more dangerous type of skin cancer), will account for 73,000 new cases this year alone. 

In order to help prevent yourself from being impacted by harmful, prolonged exposure to UV rays, you must take several precautions. Remember, there are NO safe UV rays! 

What Affects UV Ray Exposure?

We’ve all heard the forewarnings our parents used to tell us about how the sun is at its strongest at certain times during the day, I can still hear my mother in my ear now! It turns out these weren’t just tall tales – the consensus agrees that the worst of the sun comes between 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM daily. 

Time of day is far from the only thing that impacts the strength of the sun, and it’s important to know all of these contributing factors. Remember – the best defense is a good offense, and knowing what affects UV exposure is a good first step in protecting yourself! 

Time of Year – The seasons have a big impact on how strong the sun is shining, and UV rays are stronger during the Spring and Summer months. 

Distance From the Equator – The further you get from the equator, the less your UV exposure will be – those of us living up north have it a bit easier than our southern neighbors. 

Clouds – While clouds may lessen the actual feeling of the sun, it’s important to remember that UV rays can penetrate them all the same – and the UV index can be just as high on an overcast day! 

How Can I Protect Myself Against Skin Cancer?

The all-important question and the reason why so many of you may be reading here in the first place! 

One of the biggest mistakes people make is caring about their sun exposure on a selective basis. Basically, many of us really only worry about covering up and protecting ourselves if we’re spending a day at the beach or going on vacation. 

This, of course, falls short. 

Sun exposure can add up day after day, and over time you can still feel some harmful effects, even if you put sunscreen on while you were at the beach last Tuesday. 

Because of this, it’s important to take the proper precautions every time you find yourself out in the sun. Of course, this doesn’t mean staying out of the sun entirely (who would want to do that?), but there’s plenty you can do to mitigate the harmful impact of UV rays. 

Use Sunscreen to Protect Against Skin Cancer

It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that using sunscreen will help you stay safe while enjoying the sunlight. However, sunscreen is by no means a silver bullet when it comes to protection, and should definitely not be your only line of defense. 

As a matter of fact, UV rays can still penetrate sunscreen, even when it’s applied liberally. Because of this, you should think of sunscreen as an integral part of your overall sun protection, but certainly not the only one. 

When it comes to making a choice on sunscreen, every person will be different, but one bit of advice remains constant – READ THE LABELS! 

As a general rule, you should look for a sunscreen that has broad-spectrum protection – that is, they protect against both UVA and UVB rays. 

Also, pay close attention to the SPF level of your sunscreen of choice. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen will provide against UVB rays – the higher the number, the greater the protection. SPF 30 or higher is your best bet, and anything less than SPF 15 won’t help prevent skin cancers. 

Keep it Made in the Shade 

We know – nobody goes out into the sun with the idea of spending the whole day in the shade, but mixing in a little shelter will help keep those nasty UV rays at bay. 

Really, we’re talking about how much time you’re spending directly in the sunlight – particularly at those times of day when the UV index is the strongest. 

A good way to measure this is the Groundhog Test. We’re all familiar with the tale of the groundhog seeing his shadow, and that result serving as a harbinger for the season to come. When it comes to sun strength, you can take a page out of the groundhog’s book to see where you stand (literally).

Simply take a look at your shadow – if it’s shorter than you, that means rays are their strongest, and you should take the necessary precautions. 

So while you won’t have to spend your whole day indoors, here are some helpful methods for throwing some shade on your day:

  • Bring an umbrella to your outdoor gathering 
  • Wear a hat
  • Keep sensitive areas of your skin covered
  • Spend small amounts of time indoors during prolonged periods outside

Wear the Proper Sunglasses 

Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion statement – they’re a helpful ally when it comes to protecting the sensitive skin around your eyes. Research has shown that prolonged exposure to the sun without eye protection can increase your chances of developing certain diseases. 

There’s not much room for compromise when it comes to your eyewear choices – the ideal pair of sunglasses should block 99 – 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays. The important thing to remember is that glasses labeled as “cosmetic” do NOT do this (they only block around 70%), and no label at all should mean no buy. 

There’s so much that can be done as it relates to protecting yourself in the sun – there’s no excuse for not taking the proper precautions in August and every month! Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer, so make sure you and your family are protected while you enjoy the outdoors! 

How else can you protect yourself against cancer? Read this post to learn more about the top cancer-fighting foods.