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Soak Up the Sun Safely

Ah, summer! Whether you’re building sand castles or firing up the grill, gardening or golfing, there’s no hiding from the hot summer sun. Although the sun on your skin feels wonderful and is a great source of essential Vitamin D, too much sun can be hazardous to your health. Prolonged exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation may lead to various types of skin damage. Some are innocent, such as “age spots” (brown spots that are bigger than freckles) or skin tags (flesh-colored growths that have a raised surface).

But excessive UV radiation can cause skin cancer, the most common cancer in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. Early detection is key to successful treatment, so check your whole body once a month for new or changing skin growths, sores that don’t heal, or bleeding moles. To guide you, use these “ABCDEs,” and see your doctor if you notice:

A = Asymmetry. For example, one part of the growth looks different from the rest.
B = Borders. Check if the growth’s borders look irregular.
C = Color. Check if a growth’s color has changed, or if it is more than one color.
D = Diameter. Any growth that is larger than a pencil eraser should be examined.
E = Evolving. Check if any growth changes in size, shape, or surface (especially if it’s bleeding), or exhibits any other unusual symptoms.

And, to help you protect your skin from sun damage, follow these simple tips:

  • Stay in the shade during peak sun hours—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) number of 15 or higher, even on cloudy days. Apply it fifteen to thirty minutes before you go outside to allow your skin to absorb it.
  • Reapply your sunscreen every few hours and after you swim or sweat.
  • Wear a hat, UV-filtering sunglasses, and loose, lightweight clothing, including long-sleeved shirts.

A little bit of sun is good for you, and with proper protection, you can enjoy sun-filled days and healthy skin for years to come.

For more information on safe sun habits, please visit:

U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. “Protect Your Skin from the Sun”

National Institute on Aging. “Skin Care and Aging”

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