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Search Health Information    How to play it smart in a sun-drenched world

How to play it smart in a sun-drenched world

(HealthDay News) -- Besides the eyes, the rest of the body needs shielding from the sun's glare as well. Damage stems from invisible ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which comes in two forms. UV-B rays, which have a short wavelength, can darken, or tan, the skin's surface, but they also can burn it. The longer wavelength UV-A rays can be dangerous as well because they penetrate the skin and damage tissue at a deeper level.

Everyone, no matter their skin color, can suffer the negative effects of the sun. Those who need to be especially careful, though, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, are people who:

  • Have pale skin.
  • Have blonde, red or light brown hair.
  • Have been treated for skin cancer.
  • Have a family member who's had skin cancer.

In addition, some medications and some cosmetics can increase sensitivity to the sun.

For protection from possible UV damage, the FDA suggests that everyone:

  • Reduce time in the sun. This is especially important from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. because that's when the sun's rays are strongest. Even on an overcast day, up to 80 percent of the sun's UV rays can get through the clouds. Stay in the shade whenever you can.
  • Dress with care. Wear clothes that protect the body. Cover up as much as possible if you're going to be outside on a sunny day. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeves and long pants. Create your own shade by carrying (or sitting under) an umbrella. Some sun-protective clothing is now available, but its effectiveness is not regulated by the FDA unless the manufacturer has made a medical claim.
  • Be smart about sunscreen. This means looking closely at the label. Choose a "sun protection factor" (SPF) of 15 or more. (The higher the number, the better the protection from sunburn.) Pick one that offers "broad spectrum" protection. (That means it protects against UV-A and UV-B). Reapply at least every two hours. And don't get fooled by "water-resistant" claims. (These sunscreens may stay on your skin longer, even if it gets wet, but they're not waterproof and need to be reapplied after swimming.

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