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VA farmers and others encouraged to protect skin against harmful UV rays

Source: Virginia Farm Bureau


RICHMOND, VA — Whether you venture outdoors on a clear day or a cloudy one, it’s always important to protect your skin against dangerous sun rays. Skin cancer is on the rise.


The National Cancer Institute estimates there were 100,640 new cases of skin melanomas and 8,290 related deaths in the U.S. last year. In 2021, there were an estimated 1.4 million people living with melanoma of the skin.


About 6.1 million people nationwide are treated annually for basal and squamous cell carcinoma—the most common types of skin cancer.


“These are frequently seen in folks that spend a lot of time outdoors—like farmers, landscapers and loggers,” noted Amy Johnson, family nurse practitioner and Virginia Farm Bureau Farm Safety Advisory Committee member.


Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet light—an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds and sunlamps. The sun’s UV rays tend to be strongest from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


Even on an overcast day, up to 80% of the sun’s UV rays can penetrate the clouds, according to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.


“It’s possible to burn on overcast and shaded days, so sunscreen should be part of your daily routine when spending time outdoors,” Johnson advised.



Experts suggest clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Image credit - Jake Heinemann


She added that “anyone with a history of sun exposure should have a yearly skin check with a qualified health professional.”


Johnson also recommends paying attention to skin lesions and scheduling an evaluation if any are changing color, shape or size, or if new lesions appear rapidly. Many can be removed through simple in-office procedures if caught early enough.


To reduce skin cancer risk, the CDC and FDA offer the following recommendations:


  • Check the UV Index each day. If the index is 3 or higher in your area, protect your skin from too much exposure to the sun. Many smartphone apps and weather websites provide this information.

  • Apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher to all uncovered skin before going outside. Check the expiration date.

  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming, sweating or toweling off. Read sunscreen labels for information about its water resistance and reapplication instructions.

  • Wear protective clothing like long-sleeved shirts, long pants and skirts. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors.

  • Wear a tightly woven wide-brimmed hat that shades your face and ears and the back of your neck.

  • Stay in the shade whenever possible. Even when in the shade, use sunscreen or wear protective clothing.

  • If you take medications, ask your health care professional about suncare precautions—some medications may increase sun sensitivity.



It’s also important to protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB radiation offer the best protection, and wrap-around sunglasses offer additional coverage by shielding the entire eye socket.


Some spray sunscreens have been recalled and shouldn’t be used. To find out if your sunscreen has been recalled, visit fda.gov/drugs/drug-safety-and-availability/drug-recalls.


For more sun safety information and tips, visit cdc.gov/skin-cancer/sun-safety.

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