Protect Your Skin
sun

While you enjoy the outdoors this summer, protect yourself from skin cancer by seeking shade, wearing sunglasses, a hat, and sun-protective clothing, and using sunscreen.

When you're having fun outdoors, it's easy to forget how important it is to protect yourself from the sun. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.

Even if it's cool and cloudy, you still need protection. UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. Clouds do not block UV rays; they filter them—and sometimes only slightly. Remember to plan ahead, and keep sun protection handy in your car, bag, or child's backpack.

Tan? There's no other way to say it—tanned skin is damaged skin. Any change in the color of your skin after time outside—whether sunburn or suntan—indicates damage from UV rays. Using a tanning bed causes damage to your skin, just like the sun.

Types of Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types, called basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are highly curable. But melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous.

Risk Factors

Anyone can get skin cancer, but some things put you at higher risk, like having—

  • A lighter natural skin color.
  • A personal  history of skin cancer.
  • A family history of melanoma.
  • Exposure to the sun through work and play.
  • A history of sunburns early in life.
  • Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
  • Blue or green eyes.
  • Naturally blond or red hair.

How to Protect Yourself

Take precautions against sun exposure every day of the year, especially during midday hours (10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.), when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage. UV rays can reach you on cloudy days, and can reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow.

  • Seek shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
  • Put on sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. The UV rays from them are as dangerous as the UV rays from the sun.

What CDC Is Doing About Skin Cancer

CDC is leading an effort to produce a journal supplement about melanoma in the United States. Several articles will describe patterns of melanoma. Other articles will focus on how melanoma can be prevented. Participants include partners from the state cancer registries, the American Cancer Society, the National Cancer Institute, and academic centers.

CDC is an advisory member of the National Council for Skin Cancer Prevention, which has designated the Friday before Memorial Day "Don't Fry Day" to encourage sun safety awareness and to remind everyone to protect their skin while enjoying the outdoors.

CDC released the Sun Safety for America's Youth Toolkitto help local comprehensive cancer control programs engage schools and other education partners in sun safety efforts. Since the majority of sun exposure occurs during childhood and early adulthood, addressing sun safety for young people is an important cancer control objective.

 

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