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Sun Safety

Every summer, millions of Americans dig out their bathing suits and flock to their favorite beaches. No matter if their goal is a friendly game of beach volleyball, relaxing in the sand, splashing in the waves, or building a sand castle; they all have to worry about ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. Intense exposure to UV rays can increase your chances of getting premature wrinkles, liver spots, and skin cancer.

Facts from the Sun Safety Alliance:

  • You can get a sunburn on a cloudy day
  • Concrete, sand, water, and snow reflect 85 to 95 percent of the sun's UV rays
  • More than 1.2 million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S.
  • Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, kills 1 person every hour
  • 1 blistering sunburn can double a child's lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

This does not mean that you shouldn't go out and enjoy the summer weather; there are plenty of products out there to help you enjoy summer while staying safe from harmful sunburns.

Sunscreen is the most common form of sun protection. Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes prior to sun exposure, and must be reapplied every hour to ensure protection. Broad spectrum sunscreens protect from both UVA and UVB rays and are considered to be the most effective. Don't forget to protect your lips by using lip balm or cream of at least SPF 30!

Sun protective clothing is also used to prevent sunburn. The fabrics used are tightly woven, making them more difficult for rays to penetrate. Some companies treat the fabric with chemicals that help absorb UV light. Sun protective clothing is usually marked with a UV protection factor (UPF) to show how protective it is; the higher the number, the more effective. Treated clothing can be expensive; an alternative would be wearing loose fitting clothes that cover as much skin as possible. Wide-brimmed hats will help block the sunlight from your head and neck.

The best way to avoid sunburn is to stay out of the sun by avoiding direct sunlight between 10am and 4pm. If you are outdoors during peak sun hours, find shade. Bring an umbrella to cast some shade while at the beach. Enjoy the summer weather and be sun safe!

Article provided by Stephanie Monger, Intern at James Madison University working Community Outreach.

For more information regarding sun safety, visit Sun Safety Alliance at