As the school year ends and students start their long-awaited summer vacation, many families utilize this bit of free time to head outdoors. When you’re headed to the coast or the waterpark, it can be easy to remember that tube (or two!) of sunscreen, but sun safety is not only important when you’re headed on vacation. Learn how to protect yourself and your loved ones all summer long with these helpful tips!
Raising awareness about skin cancer is highly important, considering that more people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States than all other cancers combined, and one in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70.
This year alone, the American Cancer Society estimates there will be more than 97,270 new cases of malignant melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, and more than three million new cases of basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers in the U.S.
Fortunately, skin cancer can be prevented with proper protection when outdoors. The American Cancer Society’s “Be Safe in the Sun” campaign provides an easy way to remember the basics of being safe in the sun. Just remember to “Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!”
- Slip on a shirt.
- Slop on sunscreen.
- Slap on a hat.
- Wrap on sunglasses to protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around them
Other important measures you can take to help protect your skin include:
Covering up with clothing
In the sweltering Texas heat, we know it seems counterintuitive to put on a long-sleeved shirt or long pants, but they are some of the most protective articles of clothing to wear when you know you’re going to be out in the sun.
The American Cancer Society recommends wearing darker colors since they tend to provide more protection than light colors, and choose clothing with a tightly woven fabric. If your clothes get wet, it’s also best to switch out into dry clothes since wet fabric does not protect your skin as well as dry.
Many companies make clothing that specifically protects against UV rays. The amount of protection the garments provide is listed by the UV protection factor (UPF) value, and just like sunscreen, the higher the number, the higher the protection.
Avoid tanning beds
There is a lot of research to back up how dangerous tanning beds are, yet they’re still a popular option for many Americans to get the appearance of sun-kissed skin. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 7.8 million adult women and 1.9 million adult men in the United States use tanning beds, and more than half of indoor tanners start tanning before age 21.
Just like the sun, tanning beds give out both UVA and UVB rays, which can cause long-term skin damage and can contribute to the development of skin cancer. Evidence from multiple studies has shown that exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning devices is associated with an increased risk of melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancer, including squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma, and researchers estimate that indoor tanning may cause upwards of 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year.
It may seem a bit obvious but the easiest way to limit your exposure to UV light is to avoid being outdoors in direct sunlight for too long, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the most intense. If you have to be outdoors, seeking shade can help provide some relief to your skin and help cool you down.
Unsure of how strong the sun’s rays are? Use the shadow test: the shorter the shadow, the more intense the sun is. Many weather apps and websites also provide the UV Index, a scale from one to 11+, which indicates how strong the sun’s rays are. A higher UV Index number means more skin-damaging UV radiation is reaching the earth.
Also remember that even when it’s cloudy or cool outside, the sun is still emitting harmful rays, so slather on a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher even if the risk for burning seems low.
Protect the kiddos
Children tend to spend more time outdoors and their skin can burn more easily, but unfortunately they may be unaware of the dangers that come with heading outdoors without sunscreen.
Before they head out for a day of fun, spend time applying sunscreen to any exposed areas of their body and use the time to teach or remind them about the importance of wearing sunscreen and seeking shade when things get too hot. And set an example for your children by making a habit of applying sunscreen to your own body! After all, whether you’re a kid or an adult, a sunburn doesn’t look or feel good on anyone!
The American Cancer Society cautions that protection from intense UV radiation should be a life-long practice for everyone. Take a minute and begin the good habits of Slip! Slop! Slap! and Wrap!
If you or a loved one has a spot on their skin that is concerning, use our “Find a Physician” tool to find a dermatologist or primary care physician near you.