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6 Sun Safety Tips

Here's how to show your skin some love during UV safety month – and all year long.

As you enjoy the beautiful outdoors this summer, it's important to protect your skin from the harmful rays of the sun. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and about 90% of skin cancers are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. The sun can also cause skin damage that leads to premature aging and wrinkles. 

“Life is for living, and it is important to embrace each season nature has gifted us,” says  Jessica Bhullar, Cancer Center Nurse Practitioner with St. Joseph’s Medical Center. “Spending time outdoors is a great way to socialize, be physically active, reduce stress, and get vitamin D. By utilizing these sun safety tips, you can partake in all that the summer season has to offer while reducing your skin cancer risk.”

To reduce your risk this summer, Weill Cornell Medicine and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend these tips:

1. Check the UV Index

The UV Index is a measure of the strength of the sun's UV radiation in your area on any given day, on a scale from 1 to 11+.  A higher number equates to greater risk of exposure to UV rays and a higher chance of sunburn and skin damage that could ultimately lead to skin cancer. Your local UV Index forecast can easily be found online so please be sure to check before heading out for summer fun.  If it's high, take extra precautions.  

2. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF

Not all sunscreens are created equal.  Look for one with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher.  The key is to make sure to apply sunscreen liberally to all exposed skin and reapply frequently.  Aim to reapply every two hours, and more often if you are sweating or swimming -- even if the sunscreen is waterproof.  And don't forget your lips!  Wear lip balm with SPF.  

3. Stay shaded

It's best to stay in the shade or indoors when the sun is at its brightest.  UV light is strongest at midday between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm.  And don't let an overcast day fool you!  Although the strength of UV rays may vary, they can reach ground all year, even on cloudy or hazy days.  

4. Cover up 

Wear a wide-brimmed hat with at least a 2 to 3 inch brim all around to protect areas that are often exposed to intense sun, such as the ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp.  Select sunglasses that offer UVA and UVB protection.  Wear loose fitting long sleeve shirts and pants, when possible.  Tightly woven fabrics are best at blocking UV rays.  

5. Avoid tanning beds

While a sun-kissed bronze look is tempting to achieve for the summer season, it's best to avoid using tanning beds as they emit both UVA and UVB radiation.  Opt for a spray-on tanner or self-bronzer instead.  

6. Get screened

Make sure to visit your dermatologist annually for a full-body skin scan which can help to detect skin cancers and other skin conditions early. This non-invasive screening only takes about 10 minutes and can be life saving. By keeping up with your annual exams, subtle changes to your skin can be more easily recognized, allowing cancerous lesions to be caught early.  

Between appointments, you can perform self-exams at home. You can use the "ABCDE" acronym to determine whether you need to see the doctor for a mole or skin lesion: 

A is for asymmetry. One half is unlike the other half.  

B is for border. An irregular or poorly defined border.  

C is for color. A typical mole tends to be evenly colored. A cancerous spot may not be the same color all over.  

D is for diameter. Melanomas are usually greater than 6 mm (size of a pencil eraser).

E is for evolving. Looks different in size, shape, or color than other moles or skin lesions. 

For more information on St. Joseph Medical Center’s Cancer Institute, please visit