On a hot summer Saturday, a few brave souls emerged from the shelter of air-conditioned bliss to soak up some Vitamin D at the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center Leisure Pool.

Temperatures climbed to nearly 100 degrees in Orlando, and some students decided to take advantage of outdoor pool activities. Although the sun gives students an excuse to try out their newest cannonball techniques or volleyball skills, it also comes with a very high risk of damage to their skin.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with more cases diagnosed each year than all other cancers combined. The number of cases has been rising in recent years, and most of the damage comes from the sun's ultraviolet rays, which damage the DNA in our skin.

People with fair skin, blue or green eyes and blond, red or light-brown hair are more at risk of skin damage, according to the ACS.

"I've gotten sun poisoning. I've turned purple," said Emily Eischen, a sophomore biomedical sciences major and one of the RWC's leisure pool lifeguards. "I'm a red-headed lifeguard, what do you expect?"

She said that for her, the potential tan that could come with not being protected isn't worth the risk of future skin damage.

Barbara Mendez, a sophomore clinical social work and criminal justice major, is also a lifeguard at the RWC leisure pool.

"There are times I don't wear sunscreen and I immediately regret it," she said. "Students just don't realize how exposed they are."

The two lifeguards suggested that students wear hats to protect their faces, especially their eyes, and drink plenty of water while outside. Dehydration can be just as dangerous as sun exposure, and is often overlooked during a whirlwind of activity.

Students should also be wary of the SPF labels on products they buy. The traditional sunscreen method may still be the go-to when in need of complete protection, but not all sunscreens are created equal.

According to Consumer Reports, after testing 34 different sunscreens, it found that almost a third of the products fell short of the SPF claim on their packaging. According to the FDA, sunscreens boasting SPFs higher than 50 haven't been found to provide any more protection than those at 50.

Some swimmers at the RWC leisure pool found that the key to protecting their skin wasn't just in quality, but in quantity.

"You have to reapply after going in the pool," said Sarah Mellard, a junior advertising-public relations major.

She said that sun protection is extremely important, not just because of the potential risk in the future, but because of the uncomfortable sensations it can cause in the present.

Protection doesn't always have to come from a piece of clothing or some goo from a tube you have to slather on every hour.

"There's a lot of makeup with SPF in it," said Kaila Menard, a sophomore nursing major.

Menard said she looks for foundations and moisturizers that come with sun protection built in so she can stay protected whenever she goes outside, not just when she puts on sunscreen at the pool.

"Is having that really nice tan now really worth hurting your skin in the future?" she asked. "I'd rather have nice skin now and later."


Deanna Ferrante is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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