Skin Cancer Prevention Tips

Over 1.3 million people will be diagnosed with skin cancer in the U.S. this year alone. It is the most common type of cancer in the United States and is one of the few cancers that continues to increase in frequency rather than decrease.

Fortunately, sunburn, photo-aging, skin cancers and other sun-related adverse health effects (e.g. lupus symptoms) are largely preventable when sun protection is practiced early and consistently. The best sun protection is provided when the following sun-safe behaviors are practiced together.

1. Sun protection is particularly important for infants and children. Babies fewer than 6 months of age are too young for sunscreen and should be kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Learn more about baby sun protection.

2. Avoid the sun. Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun and ultraviolet radiation are most intense. Approximately 50 percent of daily UV exposure is received during the four hours around noon.

3. Sun protective clothing is an excellent sun protection tool. Wearing tightly woven yet loose fitting clothing that has been tested and certified as sun protective can shade your skin from the sun's UVA and UVB rays. Clothing provides a physical block that doesn't wash or wear off and protection lasts all day.

4. Wear a sun hat such as a wide-brimmed hat or legionnaires hat that covers your neck and ears and is made of sun protective material. A hat with at least a 3-inch brim all the way around is best. Baseball caps do not protect the back of the neck or the ears.

5. Wear sunglasses that block both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. Wearing sunglasses protects eyes from cataracts, retinal damage, macular degeneration and eyelid cancer.

6. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen whose active ingredients block both the UVA and UVB rays. The Sun Protective Factor (SPF) should be a minimum of 30. Sunscreens should be used every day, including cloudy days. They should be applied liberally and evenly before going out into the sun and should be reapplied frequently, especially after swimming.

7. Limit exposure to reflective surfaces such as water, snow, sand and concrete. Water activities such as swimming, boating, and fishing will significantly increase exposure to reflected UV rays. Similarly, sitting on the beach under an umbrella provides protection only from the sun's direct rays not the indirect rays reflected off the sand.

8. Do not use tanning salons. Tanning booths damage skin just as real sunlight does. The ultraviolet radiation from a tanning bed is often more intense that natural sunlight: 20 minutes in a tanning bed can be equivalent to 4 hours in the sun. Also, most tanning devices use UVA rays, which have been shown to go deeper into the skin and contribute to premature wrinkling and skin cancer.