UV Rays, Fireworks Among July Dangers, Local Physicians Warn

WEST SPRINGFIELD — As Americans celebrate the Fourth of July outdoors this weekend, local physicians are warning that, just like the hot temperatures, skin cancer is on the rise.

July is UV Safety Month, and physicians at American Family Care (AFC) and AFC/Doctors Express urgent-care centers are raising awareness about the importance of getting skin checks. Experts say most skin cancers can be found early with regular skin exams. Physicians can give these exams at urgent-care facilities — no specialists or long waits necessary.

There are more cases of skin cancer each year than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancers combined. In fact, of the seven most common cancers, melanoma is the only type of cancer that is on the rise. With that in mind, here are some sun-safety tips from AFC and AFC/Doctors Express physicians:

• Know when to seek shade or lather up. UV rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Seek shade or apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. For lasting protection, be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days.

• Choose sunscreen wisely. Be sure the sunscreen is labeled ‘broad spectrum,’ which provides protection against both UVA and UVB rays. And use a sunscreen of at least 15 SPF.

• Use extra caution at higher altitudes. UV exposure can be stronger at higher altitudes because there is less atmosphere to absorb the UV radiation.

• Avoid the burn. Sunburns significantly increase the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer.

• Wear proper clothing. Long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats, and UV-resistant sunglasses all provide sun protection, even on a cloudy day when UV rays can still be strong.

In addition, doctors at local AFC and AFC/Doctors Express urgent cares often see a surge in patients seeking treatment for injuries and illnesses over the Fourth of July holiday, the most dangerous American holiday weekend of the year. Some 25 million pounds of fireworks are sold each year to celebrate America’s birthday, but with those bright celebrations come hidden dangers.

Sparklers and rockets accounted for more than 40{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of all fireworks injuries. The most common fireworks injuries were to hands and fingers — 36{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} — but 22{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} of injuries were to heads, faces, and ears, and 16{06cf2b9696b159f874511d23dbc893eb1ac83014175ed30550cfff22781411e5} were eye injuries, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

Another summer danger is heat stroke, the most serious heat-related illness. Body temperatures can rise to 106 degrees in 10 to 15 minutes, and sweating just isn’t enough to cool down. Without immediate treatment, heat stroke can cause permanent disability or be fatal.

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