Posted: Monday, July 1, 2024

July is Ultraviolet Safety Month

As we turn our calendars to the sunny and humid month of July, Ultraviolet (UV) Safety Month offers us an opportunity to focus on ultraviolet safety, why it’s important and how to protect ourselves. But, what is ultraviolet light and why do we need protection? UV light is the wavelength of light on the electromagnetic spectrum from 280-400 nanometers, just below visible light. Sunlight contains UV light, which is made up of UVA (longest wavelength) and UVB (medium wavelength) rays. UVB is the more dangerous form of UV light especially from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. UV exposure is the highest in the spring and summer months, in higher elevations and closer to the equator.

UV light is important, especially when it comes to vitamin D formation in our bodies. However, it only takes about 15-30 minutes of sunlight per day to formulate the amount of vitamin D needed for the average adult. The risks of more extensive sun exposure quickly outweigh the benefits. “Everyone has had a sunburn at some point in his or her life, but long-term UV exposure leads to worsening acne, wrinkles, thinning/bruising of the skin, and worst of all, skin cancer. It is estimated that 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer in America each day, with the strongest, most controllable risk factor being long-term sun exposure,” Dr. Kevin Veverka, dermatologist with Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Dermatology explained.

How can we protect ourselves? One of the best ways to protect our skin from the sun is to avoid extensive sun exposure during the peak hours of the day, between10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when there is peak UVB activity. “I always recommend physical sun protection whenever practical. A broad-brimmed cap provides long-lasting, circumferential sun protection of the face, ears and scalp; these are the areas with highest incidence of nonmelanoma skin cancer. Sun protective clothing will carry a Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) indicating environmental protection and is a whole lot more convenient when doing yard work or hiking, when sunscreen reapplication is not necessarily at the forefront of your mind,” Veverka said.

“I am constantly asked what type of sunscreen is best, and the simple answer is: the sun protection factor (SPF) 30+ sunscreen you are willing to wear. SPF 30+ ensures about 97 percent of the UV protection possible by modern sunscreens. Generally, physical/mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide provides the broadest and most versatile protection, but these mainly come in lotion form and can be thick. Lotion often is superior to spray, but people usually are more willing to apply spray more liberally and reapply when out for prolonged periods of time. You should reapply every two to three hours,” Veverka emphasized.

Ultimately, small sun-protective behaviors can add up over time, and significantly reduce wrinkle formation, sun damage and the risk of skin cancer. Whether it is wearing a hat when you are mowing the lawn, or reapplying sunscreen at lunchtime on the beach, these are the behaviors that can truly make a difference.

For more information or to make an appointment with Blount Memorial Physicians Group – Dermatology, call 865-238-6450.

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