Keeping Your Skin Safe in the Summer Sun

September 2017

Each year, more than 5.4 million skin cancers are diagnosed. It is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed in the US each year than all other cancers.

You don’t have to spend the day at the lake or on the beach to get too much sun exposure. Everyday activities expose you to ultraviolet (UV) rays and the amount of exposure over time adds up. It’s important to protect your skin anytime you are in the sun.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but you need to be extra careful if you have natural blond or red hair, have freckles, are fair skinned, spend a lot of time outdoors, take medications that make you sensitive to light, have had skin cancer before or have a family history of it, have had a lot of sunburns previously, have a lot of moles, or live in or travel to hot climates or high altitudes.

While it is true that lighter skin types are at increased risk, anyone can get skin cancer. African Americans, while having a lower incidence of skin cancer especially on visible skin, may be diagnosed at later stages.

There is no such thing as a healthy suntan. Any change in your natural skin color is a sign of skin damage. Evidence suggests tanning greatly increases your risk of developing skin cancer.

Additionally, just a few serious sunburns can increase a child’s risk of skin cancer later in life. Kids don’t have to be at the pool, beach, or on vacation to get too much sun. Their skin needs protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays whenever they’re outdoors.

The number one way to limit your exposure to the sun is to stay in the shade. But if you’re going to be in direct sunlight, the American Cancer Society recommends you “Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap” to protect yourself:

Slip on a shirt.
Cover as much of your skin as possible, including your arms, neck, and legs.

Slop on sunscreen.
Apply sunscreen generously and often. Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended.

Slap on a hat.
Choose a hat with a 2- to 3- inch brim all the way around (not a baseball cap) to protect your eyes, ears, and neck from too much sunlight.

Wrap on sunglasses.
UV-blocking sunglasses protect the eyes and delicate skin around them. Check the labels to make sure they block UV rays. Children should have smaller versions of protective sunglasses – not toy pairs.

For additional information on skin cancer and prevention, visit or call 1-800-227-2345

Source: Laura Makaroff, DO American Cancer Society | Senior Director, Cancer Control Intervention

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