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A little sunscreen goes a long way
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My kids have been out of school for two weeks and the morning routine has drastically changed. There is a lot of squirming from my youngest and a few excuses from my oldest… It is a struggle to get them to wear sunscreen.

They spend four or six hours outside every day, playing, riding bikes, swimming, just being kids. They shouldn’t have to worry about the long term effects of their love for the outdoors. And they don’t… but I do. It’s a fact: Overexposure to the sun can result in skin cancer later in life.

Skin cancer is an issue and concern that directly affects everyone. It is the nation's most commonly occurring form of cancer, with more than 1.2 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year. It is also the most deadly form of skin cancer, with one person dying every hour from melanoma.

Much of the growing incidence of skin cancer can be prevented, especially if children and their parents practice good sun safe habits early in life. Consider the following facts and statistics.

Depletion of Earth's ozone continues to increase your exposure to UV rays. The sun’s UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. That means most of our regular outdoor activities expose us to the highest levels of UV that pose the most risk. And that holds true even on a cloudy day because the UV rays can come through clouds (if you have ever gotten a sunburn on a “cloudy” day, you know what I mean).

Over exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can result in sunburns which increase your risk of developing skin cancer. And sunburn doesn’t only happen during the summer! Water, snow and sand reflect 85% to 90% of the sun’s UV rays, which can increase your chance of sunburn. One blistering sunburn can double a child’s lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

On average, children get three times more exposure to the sun’s UV rays than adults. Think about it – in the summer, the adults seek shade when they continue to play and, in the winter, the adults come in from the cold while they stay outside, “never getting cold.”

Not just for fashion anymore, sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays. The ability of sunglasses to block UV light is not dependent on the darkness of the lens or the price tag. Always choose sunglasses that are labeled as blocking 99-100% of UV rays. Some manufacturers’ labels will say “UV absorption up to 400nm,” which is the same thing as 100% UV absorption.

But the most important thing to do is wear sunscreen each and every day. Apply it 15 minutes before going out into the sun. Reapply every 2 hours.

They make many different kinds of sunscreen, with different SPF levels, even different smells. Do your research and select the one that is right for you and your family… But make sure your selection offers broad spectrum protection with at least SPF 15. And if it wasn’t complicated enough, insect repellants reduce sunscreen’s SPF by up to 1/3 so, when using a combination, use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.

The bottom line is that a simple change to your morning routine – brush teeth, brush hair, and put on the sunscreen – can significantly decrease the risk exposure to the sun. So slather on the sunscreen in the morning and throughout your time in the sun so you can enjoy the rest of your sunny day!

**National Sun Safety Week is June 1 through June 8. More information can be found at the following resources:

Hosanna Fletcher has lived in Newton County since 2005. With a Masters in Public Health and another in Sociology, she has worked on a variety of community development projects, led training sessions for Lay Health Advisors, conducted and evaluated health risk assessments, and designed and implemented employee wellness programs. Hosanna and her husband Kevin, a Newton County native, have been married for 15 years this October. They have two children — Miranda, 11, and Thomas, 3.