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Unprotected Exposure to Sun Can be Damaging
07/26/2012

STEPHENVILLE, Texas — Being out in the sun is an important part of the summer in North Texas. We all need some sun exposure. It's our primary source of vitamin D and makes us feel good. But too much unprotected exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, and even cancer.

Most of the more than 1 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer diagnosed yearly in the United States are considered to be sun-related, according to the American Cancer Society. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, accounted for more than 8,300 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“In the short term, a tan might make you look good,” said Marilyn Brister, M.D., emergency medicine physician on the medical staff of Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville, “but later in life you can begin to see the damage. The UV light damages the elastin in your skin which will cause skin to sag, stretch and to bruise easier.”

Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun.

The best ways to lower the risk of non-melanoma skin cancer are to avoid long exposure to intense sunlight and practice sun safety. You can still exercise and enjoy the outdoors while practicing sun safety at the same time. Here are some ways to be sun-safe from the American Cancer Society:

  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Seek shade: Look for shade, especially in the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest. Practice the shadow rule and teach it to children. If your shadow is shorter than you, the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
  • Slip on a shirt: Cover up with protective clothing to guard as much skin as possible when you are out in the sun. Choose comfortable clothes made of tightly woven fabrics that you cannot see through when held up to a light.
  • Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen and lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen (about a palmful) and reapply every 2 hours and after swimming, toweling dry, or sweating. Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days.
  • Slap on a hat: Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck. If you choose a baseball cap, remember to protect your ears and neck with sunscreen.
  • Wrap on sunglasses: Wear sunglasses with 99 to 100 percent UV absorption to provide optimal protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin.

Follow these practices to protect your skin even on cloudy or overcast days. UV rays travel through clouds.

Avoid other sources of UV light. Tanning beds and sun lamps are dangerous. They also damage your skin in other ways.

If you suspect something unusual, consult a physician. For more information, visit cancer.org or cdc.gov.

About Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville
Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Stephenville is a 98-bed acute care, full-service facility serving Erath and surrounding counties since 1926. The hospital's services include inpatient and outpatient surgery, women’s services, advanced diagnostic imaging, and wound care. Texas Health Stephenville, an affiliate of the faith-based, nonprofit Texas Health Resources system, has been recognized as a Nurse-Friendly Hospital and a Level IV Trauma Center. For more information, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org/Stephenville.

About Texas Health Resources
Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based, nonprofit health systems in the United States. The health system includes 24 acute care and short-stay hospitals that are owned, operated, joint-ventured or affiliated with Texas Health Resources. It includes the Texas Health Presbyterian, Texas Health Arlington Memorial and Texas Health Harris Methodist hospitals, a large physician group, outpatient facilities, and home health, preventive and fitness services, and an organization for medical research and education. For more information about Texas Health Resources, call 1-877-THR-WELL, or visit TexasHealth.org.

Doctors on the medical staff practice independently and are not employees or agents of the hospital.

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