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Stay Safe In The Sun | Summer 2005 Out Here Magazine

Always apply waterproof sunscreen liberally, and use it more than once a day to keep your skin protected.

By Kara Lynn Dunn

Photography by PictureQuest

For more information on how to prevent, recognize, and treat skin cancer, visit www.skincancer.org.

Almost everyone loves the sun, but summer's golden days bring unwelcome ultraviolet rays. Too much sun exposure can lead to skin cancer, of which 1 million people will be diagnosed this year.

The good news? It's never too late to take protective measures, says dermatologist Dr. Warwick L. Morison, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine professor and Skin Cancer Foundation adviser.

"First, if you can, limit your exposure to the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.," Morison says, noting the peak hours for harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

It may be reasonable for gardeners to avoid the hottest part of the day, but what about farmers and others who don't have a choice?

"Cover up with clothing, wear a hat with a brim, and apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen," he says. That applies even to overcast days.

Liberally apply waterproof (perspiration-proof) sunscreen with a sun protection factor, or SPF, of 30 or more about 15 minutes before going outside, allowing it to dry, he suggests.

Properly applied, a sunscreen with a 15 SPF is effective for most, says the Skin Cancer Foundations; however, Morison recommends twice the protection because studies show that people tend to use half as much as what's needed, reducing the sunscreen's effectiveness by half.

Other suggestions:

  • Reapply sunscreen after lunch to make sure you're fully protected.
  • Protect your eyes and eyelids with sunglasses and lips with balm.
  • If you prefer wearing a baseball cap instead of a brimmed hat, add a back flap to protect your neck.
  • Be aware of your health condition. "Some medications make one more susceptible to sun damage in spite of sunscreen," Morison says.
  • Using an insect repellant containing DEET (the active ingredient in the most widely used insect repellents) reduces sunscreen's effect, so adjust your protection accordingly.
  • Install a sunshade on your farm or garden tractor. "Everything from a canvas umbrella to a steel canopy can be added with a universal steel mount," says Dean Simmons, manager of the Tractor Supply store in Watertown, NY.
  • Apply UV window film to enclosed tractor cabs.

Indeed, that warm glow you feel at the end of the day should be for a job well done — not sunburn.

Kara Lynn Dunn writes from her farm in Mannsville, NY.

PROTECT THE PETS

Summer heat and sun take a toll on pets, too, so provide plenty of fresh water and shade, animal experts advise. Ideally, bring them inside during the hottest part of the day.

For pets with light-colored noses or light-colored fur on their ears, use sunscreen on those areas.

Prevent overheating by shaving a heavy-coated dog's hair, but leave at least 1 inch to protect the skin from sunburn. Some dogs, however, are cooled by their undercoat and should not be shaved. Get guidance from your veterinarian.

Keep dogs and cats well groomed to stave off summer skin problems.