Summer is fast approaching and many of us will spend a good deal of it out in the sun. The season is filled with activities and events that beckon us into the great outdoors. There are lots of benefits to being outside, but too much exposure to the sun can be a problem if we don’t take adequate precautions.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, caused mainly by Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun. UV damage can also cause wrinkles and blotches or spots on your skin. The good news is that skin cancer can be prevented and in most cases, be cured when it’s found and treated early.

That’s why it’s important to be mindful of these simple steps to protect your skin:

Shun the strongest sun

  • Stay out of the sun as much as possible between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the UV rays are the most intense
  • If unsure of the sun’s intensity, use this test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Avoid tanning beds. The UV light from tanning beds can be just as harmful as the sun, causing skin cancer and wrinkling.

Pay attention to UV rays

  • UVA rays (or aging rays) can prematurely age your skin, causing wrinkles and age spots, and can pass through window glass.
  • UVB rays (or burning rays) are the primary cause of sunburn and are blocked by window glass.
  • Check the UV Index when planning outdoor activities to prevent overexposure to the sun.

Lather up with sunscreen SPF 30 or higher

  • The American Academy of Dermatology recommends generously applying a broad spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher which blocks 97 percent of the sun’s UVB rays.
  • Put on sunscreen every two hours and after you swim or sweat.

Cover up with long sleeves, sunglasses and a hat

  • Wear tightly woven clothing that blocks out light. Try this test: Place your hand between a single layer of the clothing and a light source. If you can see your hand through the fabric, the garment offers little protection.
  • Wear UV-absorbent shades.Sunglasses don't have to be expensive, but they should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • A wide brim hat (not a baseball cap) is ideal because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp.

Check your skin regularly for changes

  • It's important to examine your body monthly because skin cancers detected early can almost always be cured. The most important warning sign is a spot on the skin that is changing in size, shape or color during a period of one month to one or two years.
  • If you find such unusual skin changes, see a health care professional immediately.

Don’t let the sun take the fun out of your summer. Be smart and use the above precautions to make your time outdoors a bit safer this season and all year long.

Information from the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the American Academy of Dermatology


Linda is the White River Branch Manager and leader of our staff wellness team. Staying healthy and keeping fit are keen interests of Linda. Her goal is to enable others to live a healthy lifestyle through good nutrition, physical fitness and a positive outlook, although (shhhhh) she does confess a weakness for potato chips and Cheetos! Join the conversation at linda@jcplin.org.

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