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Illinois Country Living

Ken Macken
Ken Macken Manager of Safety and Loss Control for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

Safety & Health:

You Can Prevent Skin Cancer
Save your skin and eyes for a lifetime of fun in the sun

Did you know that the sun, though vitally important, is responsible for many of the 1 million new cases of skin cancer that are diagnosed each year according to American Academy of Dermatology (ADD)? They also inform us that 10 percent or 100,000 of those new skin cancer cases are potentially dangerous melanomas!

Those are alarming statistics in light of the fact that summer is again upon us and we will all head outdoors after our winter hibernation.

I like the summer months. And if you’re like me, you may not do as much as you should to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays, thinking you’ll only be out in the direct sun for a short period and that won’t be harmful. This is a bad line of reason! In fact, the sun’s rays are so powerful that you can receive a burn in a relatively short period of time whether it’s sunny or cloudy. Remember, clouds do not always protect you from all the sun’s rays!

Those are the facts. Now what do we do to combat the sun’s rays this coming summer while working or just playing?

  • You may not want to hear this … kids and men … but sunscreen is still your best defense! I don’t like wearing it either. You have to see the long- term picture. If it will help prevent future problems … spread it on! If you’re swimming in the pool or sweating a lot, you may need to re-apply your sunscreen!
  • When choosing a sunscreen, pick one with at least an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 and preferably higher.
  • You may be dark complected and feel like you tan easily. But, remember that all skin types are susceptible to the sun’s rays.
  • Limit your exposure to the sun by monitoring the time you’ve been in direct contact of its rays. Take occasional breaks and go inside for a bit.
  • Remember that it can take up to a full day for a sunburn’s effects to show on your skin. You may actually feel like you didn’t burn one day, stay out longer, and wake up the next day, with a severe sunburn.
  • Again, limit your exposure by covering your skin, or going inside or to a shaded area.

Protect Your Eyes Too

Excessive unprotected exposure to the sun’s rays can lead to age related macular degeneration, cataracts, skin cancer in the tissue surrounding the eyes and tissue growth that can block vision (pterygium). Wearing the right kind of sunglasses can protect your eyes, and you’ll look cool, too.

But don’t buy sunglasses based on how cool they look. And just because you tend to put your sunglasses down somewhere and lose them, don’t buy the cheapest pair you can find.

The cost of manufacturing lenses that meet or exceed the minimum safety standards is a major factor in the cost of sunglasses. Look for a minimum of UV400 marked on the lenses. They should also be CE compliant. This means they have passed approved safety standards and are effective in reducing harmful UV rays from entering the eyes.

Remember, UV400 is the minimum safety standard. It’s important to invest in good quality sunglasses with good UV filters that can block out UV radiation, if you do not, you run a very real risk of permanent damage leading to blindness.

The lens color is another important consideration. Choose a brown, grey or green tint; the darker the shade, the more protection you will get. Avoid tints in yellow, pink or blue. They are not capable of fully protecting the eyes and can be confusing in recognizing colors.

Here’s wishing you a super summer! May all you farmers have an incredible harvest. May each of you enjoy all your summer’s fun activities! Just don’t let a sunburn ruin a great time outdoors.

For More Information:

Ken Macken is the Manager of Safety and Loss Control for the Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives, 217-241-7933,


© 2008 Illinois Country Living Magazine.
Association of Illinois Electric Cooperatives

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