Skin cancer and sun protection: Part 1 of 2

Posted by Melanie Dixon, M.D.
May 15, 2013

Summer will soon be here which means it’s time for some fun in the sun. While enjoying those summer activities under the sun’s warmth, it’s important to protect your skin from damaging ultraviolet (UV) rays. The sun’s UV rays cause damage to the skin’s DNA, which controls skin cell growth. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. with more than two million Americans diagnosed every year. In fact, there are more new cases of skin cancer each year than breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime.

The following tips will help protect your skin and keep you safe in the sun:

1. Use sunscreen.

Most experts suggest using a sunscreen that provides a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. The higher the SPF number means the greater amount of protection. Read and follow the instructions on the label and use sunscreen generously over the parts of your body exposed to the sun. Even water-resistant sunscreen should be reapplied every two hours and usually more frequently if you are sweating or swimming. Make sure you check the expiration date of your sunscreen products — they might be less effective if they are more than two years old. 

2. Wear protective clothing.

Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs. Instead of baseball caps and visors, wear wide-brimmed hats to protect your face, ears and neck. You can also look for sunproof swimsuits, shirts and sportswear. Tightly woven fabrics protect better than loosely woven fabrics.

3. Avoid the sun during the midday hours.

UV rays are most intense between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If possible, stay inside during that time. You should also be aware that UV rays can pass through water to some degree and are present even on cloudy days.

Read more:

Skin cancer and sun protection: Part 2 of 2

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