BUCKHANNON — During the solar noon area, West Virginia ranks at an 8 on the Ultraviolet (UV) Index – indicating that the exposure level to UV radiation is high. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), it only takes approximately 15 minutes for a person to experience sun damage in these conditions. Depending on the day, Buckhannon’s UV Index can average from 8 to 10+.
Overexposure to UV radiation from the sun can result in a painful and visible sunburn. Experiencing this can cause other significant health issues such as skin cancer, premature aging of the skin, cataracts and other eye damage, as well as immune system deficiencies. Children are reportedly at the highest risk.
Although highly preventable, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. According to United Hospital Center’s Vice President of Oncology and Post-acute Care Linda Carte, RN, MSN, AOCN, “Before you go outdoors you should remember to apply sunscreen. The sun’s rays can lead to a wide range of problems, from sunburns to skin cancer. Each year, people continue to burn their skin without realizing the severity of the injury,” stated Carte. “Sunburn damages the cells and blood vessels in the skin and can quicken the aging process. Multiple sunburns can also cause skin cancer.”
Annually, there are 5.4 million cases of skin cancer treated in the United States. This is a statistic that could be lowered significantly if all would follow some basic skin safety.
The EPA recommends the following steps to help protect yourself and family members from the sun: Do not burn, avoid sun tanning and tanning beds, wear protective clothing, seek shade, use extra caution near water, snow and sand, check the UV Index and take in vitamin D safely.
When applying sunscreen, the EPA recommends applying approximately one ounce of sunscreen in order to cover all exposed skin, 15 minutes prior to going outside. Typically, sunscreen applied should contain at least 15 Sun Protection Factor (SPF), as well as provide broad-spectrum protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. However, given the high index in West Virginia, and Buckhannon specifically, SPF 30+ sunscreen is more appropriate and should be applied every two hours, even on overcast days.