by: CONTRIBUTED BY TUALATIN VALLEY FIRE AND RESCUE - If you cant slop on the sunscreen, make sure to spray some on to protect your skin from ultraviolet radiation.When you think of sun and the potential for skin cancer, you may think of places like Florida or California, but did you know that Oregon has higher rates of skin cancer than both of these states?

It’s true. Oregon has the fourth-highest death rate for melanoma in the nation, higher than both California and Florida. For women, there’s even more cause for concern. Women in Oregon have the highest rate of developing or dying from melanoma in the nation according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“It’s easy for Oregonians to put ultraviolet (UV) radiation out of their minds on cloudy days or to overdo when they finally see the sun since our sun season is short,” says Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Emergency Medical Services Chief Mark Charleston. “The truth of the matter is that UV rays can penetrate through clouds and hazy skies and reflect off the ground, sand, concrete, snow, and water.”

With summer vacations in full swing and people soaking up Oregon’s coveted summer sun, consider the American Cancer Society’s awareness message for skin cancer prevention, which promotes the phrase “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!” These four words remind us of key ways to protect skin from UV exposure — important steps that could save your life.

  • Slip on a shirt: Cover up as much skin as possible when you’re out in the sun.
  • Slop on sunscreen: Use sunscreen and lip balm with broad spectrum protection and a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours and after swimming, toweling dry, or sweating.
  • Slap on a hat: Cover your head with a wide-brimmed hat, shading your face, ears, and neck.
  • Wrap on sunglasses: Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB absorption to protect your eyes and the surrounding skin.
  • While summer is an obvious time to think of skin protection, it’s important to take precautions year around. With so many cloudy days in Portland, many people turn to artificial sunlight. While they may know that the UV rays emitted by tanning beds are harmful, many overlook this fact in exchange for a bronze glow and warmth on cold rainy days.

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced stricter regulation of tanning beds. With death rates disproportionately high in Oregon from melanoma, it’s important to note that people who use tanning beds before age 35 have up to a 75 percent higher chance of developing melanoma in their lifetime.

    Your skin is your largest organ, protecting the network of muscles, nerves, bones, blood vessels, and everything else inside your body. Take precautions when exposing this vital organ to both natural and artificial sunlight so your skin can keep doing its part to keep your body healthy.

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