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Sun Safety

More than 2 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States

Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. Much of this exposure comes from the sun, but it also comes from manmade sources such as tanning beds.

The American Cancer Society recommends people avoid tanning beds altogether


Long-term sun exposure can also cause wrinkles, dark patches, prematurely aged skin, and loss of skin elasticity. Exposure to the eyes can lead to an increased risk for cataracts and other eye problems. Skin cancer can be prevented by taking the proper precautions against UV-caused skin damage.

Protect your skin from UV rays

  • Apply sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Apply the sunscreen properly, paying especial attention to face, ears, hands, and arms. Apply the sunscreen generously to dry skin 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure to let the chemicals have time to absorb into your skin. Use lip balm with sunscreen. Reapply every few hours, or more often if you are swimming or heavily sweating.
  • Cover your skin. Preferably, wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts made of tightly woven, lightweight, and comfortable fabrics. Dark color clothing provides more protection than light colored.
  • Wear sunglasses that protect against UV rays. Look for sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation or have UV absorption up to 400 nm.
  • Wear a hat. Wear a hat that has a 2 - 3 inch brim all around it to protect skin areas most often exposed to the sun. Note that a baseball cap does not protect the back of the neck or the ears, where skin cancers commonly develop.
  • Limit sun exposure between 10a.m. and 4p.m. If you have to spend time outside during these hours, protect your skin with the tips above. Note that sun rays can pass through water. Snow and sand reflect sunlight, increasing the UV radiation that your skin is exposed to.
  • Avoid tanning beds and lamps. Studies have shown that people who use tanning beds are more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer than never users.