Published on June 30, 2022

On UV Safety Month, a reminder — be safe in the sun

The summer season is officially underway, which means more time spent outdoors and subsequently more exposure to the sun and harmful UV rays.

As part of UV Safety Month, Essentia Health wants to remind our patients and communities of the importance of protecting your skin from the harmful side effects of UV rays.

What is UV radiation?

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is a form of electromagnetic radiation that comes from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds. UV radiation is comprised of UVA and UVB rays which can cause damage to the cells in the top layer of your skin called the epidermis.

UVA rays (or aging rays) can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and are able to pass through window glass. UVB rays (or burning rays) are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.

In addition to skin cancer, exposure to UV rays can cause other health problems, such as premature aging of the skin, eye problems and a weakened immune system.

Top tips to protect your skin

  1. Wear sunscreen: You should wear sunscreen that is SPF 30 or higher every day, even on cloudy days. Make sure to reapply every two hours and reapply immediately after swimming or sweating.
  2. Cover up: If you plan to be out in the sun, you should wear proper clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt and a hat with a brim that shades your face, ears and back of the neck. Sunglasses are also recommended to protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts.
  3. Stay in the shade: If you are going outside, staying in the shade, especially during midday hours, is one of the best ways to limit UV exposure from sunlight.
  4. Avoid tanning beds: Tanning beds can cause as much damage as the sun. In fact, tanning-bed use has been linked to an increased risk of melanoma, especially if a person started using them before the age of 30.

"It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime,” says Essentia Dermatology Physician Assistant Katelyn Walsh. “To reduce our chance of skin cancer and protect our skin, we recommend daily sunscreen usage, wearing sun-protective clothing and avoiding peak sun hours from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Keep in mind that 80% of the sun's harmful rays can penetrate the clouds, so wear sunscreen every day, rain or shine!"

Know your risk

While anyone can get skin cancer, certain factors can increase your risk.

  1. Your skin: Your risk for skin cancer could be higher if you have lighter skin and tend to burn more easily.
  2. Moles: If you have a lot of moles or your moles are on the larger side, your risk for skin cancer could be higher.
  3. Family history: If you have a family history of melanoma or a history of blistering sunburns, you could also be at higher risk.

Detect skin cancer early  

Skin cancer is easier to treat when caught early. Check your skin every month for warning signs of skin cancer, such as:

  • Skin growth that increases in size.
  • Mole, birthmark or spot that changes color, size or texture.
  • Spot or sore that itches, hurts, crusts, scabs or bleeds.
  • Open sore that doesn’t heal within three weeks.

Come see us!

If you are experiencing warning signs of skin cancer or are just generally concerned about your skin, it is important to check in with your primary care physician, who may refer you to a dermatologist. At Essentia Health, we are proud to have talented dermatologists and advanced practitioners in our dermatology department.

At our Duluth Clinic Third Street Building, Detroit Lakes Clinic and South University Clinic in Fargo, we also offer a variety of products that can help you protect yourself from the sun this summer.