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Sun Safety

How to Be Safe in the Sun

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Updated May 17, 2010

Knowing about sun safety may save your life. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, and it's estimated that over 1 million people will get skin cancer this year. That's the bad news. The good news is skin cancer is preventable because over 90% of all skin cancers are caused by exposure to UV radiation from the sun's rays.

Are you ready for more good news? Reducing exposure to UV radiation not only helps prevent skin cancer, it also helps prevent wrinkles and dark spots on the skin, known as photoaging.

Ways to Minimize UV Exposure

Am I suggesting that everyone should stay closed up inside to prevent skin cancer and wrinkles? Of course not. Some benefits of sunlight exposure include vitamin D production and improved mood.

You can take certain measures when outside to help minimize the amount of UV radiation that can penetrate the skin and cause damage. These include:

  • The sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Avoid being in the sun during those times.
  • Be aware that you can get an extra dose of UV when you're around surfaces that reflect light including water, sand, and snow.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every day. Broad-spectrum sunscreens block UVA and UVB. Know how to apply sunscreen correctly and don't forget to reapply it.
  • Protect your face and neck by wearing a wide-brimmed hat with at least a 4-inch brim all the way around or a 4-inch brim in front with a neck flap in back.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes with a tight weave that cover as much of your body as possible.
  • Don't forget to protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use the UV-index when planning outdoor activities.
  • There is no safe way to get a tan. Stay away from tanning beds.

Don't Forget

Remember, it's important not to rely on sunscreen alone to protect your skin. As much as possible, use a combination of all these tips.

Wouldn't it be nice to have people think you look younger than you really are? Wouldn't it be great to not have to go through the worry of having skin cancer? It's not too late to start being safe in the sun.

Sources:

National Institutes of Health. "What You Need to Know About Skin Cancer" NIH Publication No. 05-1564. (2005): 1-40.

Saraiya, M, et al. "Interventions to Prevent Skin Cancer by Reducing Exposure to Ultraviolet Radiation - A Systematic Review." American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 5(2004): 422-66.

Saraiya, M, et al. “Preventing Skin Cancer: Findings of the Task Force on Community Preventive Services on Reducing Exposure to Ultraviolet Light.” MMWR Recommendations & Reports. 52-RR15(2003): 1-12.

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