Time was, conventional wisdom was that being out in the sun was good for you. If you got a tan early in the season, it helped you from getting a sunburn later on — and it looked good.
Today, we know differently. Skin cancer — often caused by overexposure to sun or tanning beds — is the No. 1 cancer in the U.S. On average, one American an hour dies from skin cancer. Even if you never develop skin cancer, the damage to your skin will be noticeable later in your life.
This doesn’t mean you should stay indoors, except for at night. There are precautions you can take to help prevent skin damage that could lead eventually to fatal results.
• Wear a shirt, especially with long sleeves, which can actually keep you cooler during the summer heat — as does a long, flowing skirt. People who live in Middle Eastern countries, particularly desert-dwellers, know how this works and practice it as a way of life.
• Don’t get sunburned in the first place. Sunburns increase the risk of eventually developing skin cancer, particularly for children.
• Cover your bare parts liberally with sunscreen, at least SPF 15 that protects against both UVA and UVB ultraviolet rays, and renew it often.
• Wear wrap-around sunglasses. Sunlight can damage your eyes as well as your skin.
• Wear a hat. Cowboys have long worn what we call “ten-gallon hats” for good reasons. They provide protection from rain, snow and sun (not to mention the fact that your horse can eat and drink from it).
• Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water or other beverages that replace electrolytes and fluids lost to perspiration.
• Take advantage of the shade, particularly between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Golfers or others who are out for extended periods in the heat and sun should try a trick long used by caddies: Soak a medium-sized towel in water and hang it around your neck. As the water evaporates, it provides a cooling effect.
Boaters or others who are going to the beach, the river or the lake — anywhere near the water — need to realize they will be next to a giant reflector that only magnifies the sun’s effects.
To learn more, visit the EPA’s SunWise program on the web at http://www.epa.gov/sunwise/