Huntsman Cancer Institute trains Rocky Mountain Power on UV protection, offers general tips to public

A woman applies sunscreen on a sunny day | Photo by Melpomenem/iStock/Getty Images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — A team from the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah recently visited St. George to provide UV exposure and sun-safety education to Rocky Mountain Power employees. However, while this training was specifically for Rocky Mountain Power, the tips offered by the Huntsman representatives are good for anyone who spends a fair amount of time outdoors.

Garrett Harding, community outreach manager for the Huntsman Cancer Institute Community outreach program, said the team travels the entire state to talk to groups about the dangers of UV exposure, skin cancer risks and tips for sun protection.

UV exposure is the number one cause of skin cancer, including melanoma, the deadliest of skin cancers.

The Huntsman team tries to work with their community partners in the different areas of Utah once every month, including schools, clinics, health departments and work sites.

This month the team spoke with Rocky Mountain Power employees, who spend a lot of time working outdoors.

The team hopes that those in the group take sun protection measures not only at work, but also at home and with their families.

“We’re really educating people on ways that they can protect themselves while they’re at work but then also when they’re home, when they’re on vacation, when they’re doing all of the outdoor things that people love to do in St. George or around the area,” Harding said.

People who spend all day in the sun are not the only ones at risk for skin cancer. Dr. Yelena Wu from the Huntsman Cancer Institute said any period of UV exposure, even intermittently, can cause damage. Even those who spend time in the sun on vacation one or two weeks per year are at risk if they do not take precautionary measures.

“There really is no safe dose,” Wu said.

Children are especially vulnerable to damage from UV exposure, which can cause problems for them later in life.

“Really focusing on sun protection in the younger years of life is really critical,” Wu said, “because we know that the sunburns and UV exposure that people will get in their childhood is so predictive of later skin cancer even years and years down the road.”

Wu said many people spend time in the sun because they are concerned about vitamin D intake and think they need direct sunlight in order to get enough. However, it does not take much time in the sun to get enough vitamin D. Even just a couple of minutes in the sun is plenty, and most vitamin D can be consumed through food.

While skin cancer typically affects older people, it is important for everyone to practice sun protection. Wu offered five main sun protection tips that dermatologists recommend, adding that it is best to use a combination.

1- It is best to avoid being outside between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. since UV radiation is strongest during this time.

2- In case being out in the sun is unavoidable, seek shade whenever possible.

3- Wear sunscreen of at least 30 SPF on exposed skin. It isn’t enough to apply it once. Sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours, and if the user is in contact with water or sweat, at least every 80 minutes. It is also recommended to wear sunglasses and lip balm with SPF.

4- Wear protective clothing whenever possible, including long sleeves and pants and a 3- to 4-inch broad-brimmed hat to protect the face, neck, ears and scalp.

5- Avoid purposeful tanning. A tan can cause sun damage just like a sunburn and does not help protect from the sun. Since tanning beds use UV light, they can also cause damage.

Wu said it is also a good idea to see a dermatologist on a yearly basis for a total body exam and that people can perform an at-home exam on a monthly basis. The American Academy for Dermatology offers the ABCDEs of melanoma, which provides specifics on what to look for when performing home examinations.

On a brighter note, those who have already had large amounts of UV exposure are not doomed, Wu said.

“You have a whole life of cumulative UV exposure, so really it’s never too late to be protecting yourself,” Wu said.

UV ray protection doesn’t mean sacrificing the outdoor activities that many in Southern Utah enjoy. Rather, taking a few precautionary measures now can help protect skin for many years and activities to come.

Email: mshoup@stgnews.com

Twitter:  @STGnews | @MikaylaShoup

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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