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Your Guide to Sun Safety in the Summer – and All Year Long

If you are outdoors during peak hours, seek shade – an umbrella, grove of trees, or covered picnic area – whenever possible.

Hats and sunglasses

Hats and sunglasses are excellent means of adding extra protection against the sun. Wraparound sunglasses with 100% UV protection are best at shielding the eyes and the more delicate skin around them. Look for hats made out of canvas or other densely woven fabrics and with brims of at least four inches to guard the head and neck.

Sunscreen application

To be most effective, sunscreen should be applied 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. Brands vary in the duration of time for which they provide coverage, but reapplication every two hours, especially after swimming and during sweat-producing activities, will make protection last longer. Always wear broad-spectrum sunscreen (which guards against both UVB and UVA rays) of at least SPF 15. UV rays are always harmful, even on cloudy days, so wear sunblock every day. Always check the expiration date on the bottle; sunscreen that is expired or more than three years old is less effective.

Time of exposure

If possible, avoid direct sunlight between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., the hours when UV ray emission is strongest. And remember, even when it's cloudy, you're still exposed to UV rays.

Parents, take note....

Daily sunscreen use for children has never been more important. On average, children are exposed to the sun three times as much as most adults, receiving 80 % of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18. Even one blistering burn early in life can double the risk of contracting skin cancer later. Do not use sunscreen on infants under six months of age. Keep infants out of the sun altogether.

Reflective surfaces

Avoid reflective surfaces such as water, building glass, sand, cement, and snow, which can reflect up to 85 percent of the sun's damaging rays.

Clothing

Wear loose long-sleeved shirts and pants made of tightly woven fabric to shut out UV rays. If these are too hot during midday activities, apply sunblock to exposed skin and seek shade whenever possible.

The Melanoma Risk

Check out our skin cancer screening guide

Practicing sun safety and avoiding tanning beds helps you reduce your risk of developing melanoma. Melanoma is an aggressive and potentially deadly form of skin cancer that is believed to be caused by exposure to UV rays.

One in 37 Americans is at risk of developing melanoma in his or her lifetime. It is the most common form of cancer in 25 to 29-year-old-women, and it is the most rapidly increasing cancer in men. Although melanoma most commonly occurs in fair-skinned Caucasians, anyone can develop it.

Although less life threatening, non-melanoma skin cancers – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – still present a small risk. You and your doctor should look for them, and, if found, they should be removed by your doctor.

The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends annual head-to-toe checks by a physician and monthly self-examinations at home. If you find anything new or suspicious during your self-examination, schedule an appointment with your doctor immediately. Early detection can save your life.

Sources:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov.
American Academy of Dermatology: www.aad.org.
American Melanoma Foundation: www.melanomafoundation.org.
The Skin Cancer Foundation: www.skincancer.org.