Ever heard “Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap!”? It’s a catchphrase that helps us remember how to be safe in the sun. Of course, staying in the shade is at the top of the list. But when it comes to sun exposure, here are the steps to being smart:
- Slip on a shirt and other clothing.
- Slop on sunscreen.
- Slap on a hat.
- Wrap on sunglasses.
The trick to being sunsmart is not just following these steps when spending the day at the beach, on the boat, or in the pool. Sun exposure adds up day after day. Which isn’t to say we have to avoid the sun entirely – but to remind us that daily precautions are as important as preparing well for those fun-in-the-sun events we look forward to.
What’s wrong with spending time in the sun?
Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, and most of this exposure comes from the sun. Tanning beds and sun lamps are also sources of UV rays and are best to be avoided. But the sun is by far our main source of the rays that most damage our skin and cause skin cancer: UVA and UVB.
Experts believe that four out of five cases of skin cancer could be prevented. Why? Because UV exposure is mostly avoidable. And yet, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Unites States, with more than 3.5 million new cases diagnosed annually. Most important, it is largely preventable.
In addition to skin cancer, sun exposure can also cause premature aging of the skin, cataracts and other eye damage, and immune system suppression.
So the message here is simple. The more exposure to the sun, the greater the risk of skin cancer and other unhealthy outcomes. If you can’t stay in the shade… slip, slop, slap and wrap!
What affects UV exposure?
The strength of the sun’s UV rays differ depending on a number of factors. Here are some tips for lowering your exposure to UV rays:
- Limit time in the midday sun. UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Follow the seasons. Spring and summer months have stronger UV rays.
- Know your geography. UV exposure increases as you get closer to the equator.
- Consider altitude. More UV rays reach the ground at higher altitudes.
- Don’t count on cloud cover. UV rays can reach the ground, even on a cloudy day.
- Watch for the UV index. Using a scale from 1 to 11+, the UV index gives an idea of how strong the UV light is in your area on any given day. A higher number is a greater risk of skin damage and cancer.
- Use shade wisely. Watch out for how shaded your shade actually is. Trees, umbrellas and canopies do not offer complete protection.
- Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap! We can’t say this enough. Wear protective clothing – tightly woven and loose fitting. Liberally apply a broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher, reapplying every two hours or after swimming or exercising. Put on a hat with a wide brim that protects your face, ears and back of your neck. And wear sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UVA and UVB protection.
Be sunsmart. Protect yourself from damaging UV rays and from skin cancer.
Bermuda Cancer and Health Centre
46 Point Finger Road, Paget
(441) 236 – 1001