How Does the UV Index Impact Your Risk of Skin Cancer

Monday, May 21, 2018

When it comes to skin protection, what you don’t know about the Ultraviolet Index could burn you.

Most of us understand that we need to wear sunscreen on sunny days, especially if our skin burns easily. But what about when the forecast calls for clouds? Do you really need to wear sunscreen? And does it matter what time of day you plan to spend at the beach?

If you look at the UV Index, you can schedule your Memorial Day activities for the best time of day based on how much radiation is expected.

Too much exposure to UV rays can damage your skin and lead to skin cancer. In fact, research shows that about 95 percent of melanoma cases – a deadly form of skin cancer – are linked to UV exposure. It’s one reason why the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention has designated the Friday before Memorial Day as “Don’t Fry Day” to raise awareness of skin cancer prevention and to encourage everyone to protect their skin as they head outdoors to kick off the summer season.

Knowing the UV Index before you settle in your beach chair is one way you can practice sun safety.

The UV Index predicts the level of solar UV radiation that is expected to reach the Earth on a particular day. How much UV radiation will reach the Earth depends on many factors including ozone depletion, seasonal and weather variations, according to the EPA.

UV Index Basics
When the index is between 0 and 2, it means the average person faces a low risk for sun damage. A UV Index reading of 3 to 5 means there’s a moderate risk if you step outdoors without sun protection. So, even on cloudy days, you should apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of 30 or higher every two hours.

If the UV Index reaches 6 or above, make sure you wear sunglasses to protect against eye damage. At this level, you should reduce the amount of time you spend in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you are outside, stick to the shade and wear protective clothing.

Stay safe. Know the UV Index.

Thanks to the Environmental Protection Agency, figuring out the UV Index wherever you are -- your neighborhood or vacation destination -- is as simple as entering the corresponding zip code to an online UV calculator. The EPA website will also give you an hourly UV Index forecast so you can decide whether it’s better to swim in the morning or late afternoon. You can sign up for UV Alerts by email as well.

In general, the UV Index increases during the morning, peaking mid-afternoon. Be careful, though, by 10 a.m., the UV Index could already range from 3 to 5. 

Don’t forget that white sand and bright surfaces can reflect UV rays, doubling your UV exposure.

Check your skin.
The best way to detect skin cancer early is to examine your skin regularly. If you notice any changes in moles or new skin growths, contact your health provider.

You can also register for a free SPOTme® skin cancer screening that will be held Saturday, June 9, 2018 from 9 a.m. to noon at Bon Secours Cancer Institute at Harbour View, 7185 Harbour Towne Parkway in Suffolk. The screening is organized by Bon Secours Cancer Institute and EVMS Dermatology.

If you have any suspicious skin changes, you’ll be referred to a dermatologist. Space is limited for the event. Call 757-889-2273 to register.