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Sun Kills 60,000 a Year, WHO Warns
WHO recommends wearing hats and sunglasses to reduce UV exposure.

As many as 60,000 people worldwide die each year from too much sun, but simple safety steps could prevent many deaths, according to a World Health Organization report.

The report, released Wednesday, was touted as the first systematic look at the global health burden from ultraviolet radiation, which is linked to up 90 percent of melanoma and other skin cancers. UV radiation can also cause sunburn, more rapid skin aging, cataracts, reactivation of the herpes virus that causes cold sores, and pterygium, a fleshy growth on the surface of the eye.

"We all need some sun, but too much sun can be dangerous — and even deadly," said Dr. Maria Neira, the director of WHO's agency of public health and the environment, which released the report.

"Fortunately, diseases from UV such as malignant melanomas, other skin cancers and cataracts are almost entirely preventable through simple protective measures."

To prevent cancer and other diseases linked to UV radiation, the agency recommends that people:

— Limit time in the midday sun.
— Use shade wisely and seek shade when UV rays are most intense.
— Wear protective clothing including hats and sunglasses.
Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor 15+.
— Avoid sunlamps and tanning parlours. People under age 18 should not use them at all.
— Pay attention to the UV index: when it predicts radiation levels of 3 (moderate) or higher, take sun safety measures and protect children.

"The application of sunscreens should not be used to prolong sun exposure but rather to protect the skin when exposure is unavoidable," the report warned.

Noting that people face a greater exposure to UV in equatorial regions and higher altitudes, WHO and the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations are distributing flyers on healthy sun habits to tourism ministries in various countries.

The report also noted that the ground's surface can make a difference:

— Fresh snow reflects as much as 80 percent of ultraviolet light.
— Sea foam reflects about 25 percent.
— Dry beach sand reflects about 15 percent.
Small amounts of exposure to the sun helps the skin to produce vitamin D.




 

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