Skin Cancer Prevention and Sun Safety

How can I prevent Skin Cancer? According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), most skin cancers occur due to too much exposure to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun. Sunlamps and tanning beds emit the same strong UV rays and can be harmful with prolonged exposure. Fortunately, skin cancer is largely preventable with a few lifestyle changes. Both the CDC and the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) recommend that people focus on limiting direct sun exposure and eliminating all artificial sun sources.

How to Determine Your UV Ray Exposure Risk

Most people understand that spending too much time in the sun can cause premature aging but are often less aware of its association with skin cancer. They usually do not think about protecting their skin during the winter or on a rainy day because they assume the sun is not dangerous in cold or cloudy weather. The sun’s UV rays can be intense even when the temperature is below zero, or it continues to rain.

When in doubt about potential skin damage due to the sun, navigate to the Environmental Protection Agency website and enter your ZIP code under the UV Index Search section. The results will return a number between 1 and 11 that helps you determine your sun exposure risk for the day. Here is what each range of numbers means:

  • 2 and under is low risk
  • 3 to 5 is moderate risk
  • 6 to 7 is high risk
  • 8 to 10 is a very high risk
  • 11 and over is an extreme risk

The CDC recommends taking active steps to protect your skin anytime the UV Index is 3 or higher.

Practical Tips for Sun Safety

Be certain to follow each of these guidelines to protect your skin from UV-ray damage:

  • Apply a sunscreen product marked with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 approximately 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply the sunscreen every two hours as long as you remain outdoors, and choose a water-resistant type of sunscreen if you plan to go swimming. Remember to apply every day, all year long.

  • Use UV Alert stickers or set an alarm on your phone to remind you when to reapply your sunscreen. 

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your face, neck, ears, and eyes.

  • Avoid being in the sun directly between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when UV rays are most intense.

  • Remain in the shade as much as possible.

  • Avoid UV tanning beds and lying in the sun to tan your skin.

  • Wear lightweight, breathable clothing in the summer months to avoid overheating.

  • Do not allow babies to spend time in the sun until they are at least six months old, at which point a parent should apply sunscreen to any exposed areas of skin.

  • Examine your skin at least once a month and report any changes to your dermatologist as soon as possible. To learn the signs to look for, visit our Skin Cancer Types page. 

Our online store offers a variety of medical-grade sunscreen options to keep you safe.

Next Steps

The CDC and SCF recommend that adults visit a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin check. Those with more than a few risk factors or who have had skin cancer in the past may need to schedule more frequent appointments.

Sources: What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer? | CDC Skin Cancer Prevention – The Skin Cancer Foundation | UV Index Search | US EPA

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