Be Sun Savvy for Cancer Prevention

Jun 18, 2021


The keys to preventing skin cancer are to be sun savvy and know how to keep your skin healthy.

Here are a few ways to protect your skin:
  • Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
    This is when the sun is most intense and produces the greatest chance of sunburn. If you must be outside during these hours, seek shade by using an umbrella, a tree or other type of shelter. Use protective clothing and sunscreen even when in the shade.
  • Use sunscreen when outdoors.
    A higher sun protection factor (SPF) number indicates increased protection. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using at least SPF 30. Use sunscreen even on cloudy or cool days because damage from the sun's rays can still occur. Reapply every two hours. You also should reapply after swimming or when sweating. Check the sunscreen's expiration date — shelf life is typically three years, less if it has been stored in high temperatures.
  • Don't use tanning beds.
    Tanning beds produce harmful ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays, which increase your risk for skin cancer. There is also no proven evidence that use of tanning beds to obtain a "base tan" will decrease your risk of sunburn. 
  • Wear sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
    Proper, protective sunglasses help prevent damage to the sensitive skin around your eyes.
  • Don the right head gear.
    A wide-brimmed hat can protect your face, ears and neck. If you wear a baseball cap, don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your neck and ears. Also, wear protective clothing that covers exposed areas.
  • Be aware of medications that increase your sensitivity to the sun.
    Some antibiotics and over-the-counter medications can make you more sensitive to sunlight. Common drugs include antihistamines, such as Benadryl; nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) including aspirin or ibuprofen; certain antibiotics, including Bactrim or Tetracycline; antidepressants; antipsychotics; and some oral diabetic medications. Check with your pharmacist regarding your medication side effects.
  • Protect children's skin.
    Children younger than 6 months should not use sunscreen but should be protected from the sun's rays with protective clothing and shade. Children 6 months and older should have sunscreen applied regularly when outdoors.
  • Perform regular skin checks.
    Look for any changes to moles, freckles or birthmarks. Additionally, monitor any new skin changes that have occurred. Use a mirror to evaluate hard-to-see areas, and have regular skin evaluations by your health care provider or dermatologist.
  • Make healthy lifestyle choices.
    Your behaviors and habits affect the health of your skin. Do not smoke because it damages collagen and elastin in your skin. When caring for your skin, use mild soaps and daily moisturizers while limiting hot showers which can strip essential oils from your skin. Drink plenty of water to remain hydrated and get regular sleep to keep your skin looking refreshed.

*Mayo Clinic