Every year, almost 5 million people are treated for skin cancer in the United States. Skin cancer can be serious, expensive, and sometimes even deadly. Fortunately, most skin cancers can be prevented.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun or from artificial sources like tanning beds are known to cause skin cancer. Damage from exposure to UV rays builds up over time, so it’s important to start sun at an early age. The Division of Cancer Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the following:
If you are outdoors:
- Seek shade, especially during midday hours. This includes 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., March through October, and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., November through February. Umbrellas, trees, or other shelters can provide relief from the sun.
- Be extra careful around surfaces that reflect the sun’s rays, like snow, sand, water, and concrete.
- Wear sun protection gear like a hat with a wide brim and sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.
- Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts and other eye problems. Wrap-around sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays offer the best protection by blocking UV rays from the side.
- Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants or a long skirt for additional protection when possible. If that’s not practical, try wearing a T-shirt or a beach cover-up.
- Apply a thick layer of broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher at least 15 minutes before going outside, even on cloudy or overcast days. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.
Discourage Indoor and Outdoor Tanning:
- From late morning through mid-afternoon
- When UV rays are strongest
- Near the equator
- During summer months
- At high altitudes
Remember that sunburns and skin damage can occur even on cloudy or overcast days.
Indoor and outdoor tanning often begin in the teen years and continue into adulthood. Don’t wait to teach your children about the dangers of tanning. Children may be more receptive than teens, so start the conversation at an early age, before they start outdoor tanning or indoor tanning.
- Help preteens and teens understand the dangers of tanning so they can make healthy choices.
- Talk about avoiding tanning, especially before special events like homecoming, prom, or spring break.
- Discourage tanning, even if it’s just before one event like prom or a wedding. UV exposure adds up over time. Every time you tan, you increase your risk of getting skin cancer.
Dangers of indoor tanning
- Exposes users to intense levels of UV rays, a known cause of cancer.
- Does not offer protection against future sunburns. A “base tan” is actually a sign of skin damage.
- Can spread germs that can cause serious skin infections.
- Can lead to serious injury. Indoor tanning accidents and burns send more than 3,000 people to the emergency room each year.
This article is intended to convey general educational information and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional healthcare advice.