Do you know the risks associated with too much sun exposure? According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide. In honor of UV Safety Awareness Month, learn more about the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays.
The sun produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation which can lead to sunburn, skin aging, and skin cancer. There are two types of rays that can damage the DNA in your skin cells and lead to cancer.
- UVB rays: These rays cause sunburn and play a key role in developing skin cancer. A sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) number refers to the amount of UVB protection it provides.2 UVB rays have short wavelengths that reach the outer layer of your skin.1
- UVA rays: These rays cause skin damage that leads to skin aging and wrinkles. When choosing sunscreen, look for the words “broad spectrum” on the product label. This means that the product has ingredients that can protect you from UVA and UVB rays.2 UVA rays have longer wavelengths that can penetrate the middle layer of your skin.1
Minimize Your Risk
If you want to minimize the risk that comes with sun exposure, follow these tips:
- Cover Up: Clothing like wide brimmed hats, long-sleeved shirts and sunglasses for eye protection, can partly shield your skin from the harmful effects of UV ray exposure.1
- Shade: Try and stay in the shade when the sun’s glare is most intense at midday. It is important to remember that even on cloudy days the sun can still damage your skin.1
- Sunscreen: Make sure that you choose the right sunscreen.1 The American Academy of Dermatology recommends choosing a sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher.
- Amount of Sunscreen: Apply at least one ounce (a palmful) of sunscreen every two hours. If you are swimming, you should apply more often even if the sunscreen is waterproof.
- Avoid Tanning Beds: Lamps in tanning beds emit harmful UV rays that can cause skin cell damage.3
Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics
For general facts about skin cancer and tips for protecting your skin, check out this infographic on the Skin Cancer Foundation’s website.
- At least one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.4
- More than 9,500 people are diagnosed with skin cancer every day in the United States.4
- In the United States, more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined.
- Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma.4 Melanoma is the most serious type of skin cancer.5
- UV Safety Awareness Month – Quality of Care (va.gov)
- Ask the Expert: Does a High SPF Protect My Skin Better? – The Skin Cancer Foundation
- Summer Tips for UV Safety Awareness in July – Affiliated Dermatology (affderm.com)
- Skin Cancer Facts & Statistics – The Skin Cancer Foundation
- Melanoma – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic