Summer is here and that means spending more time doing the things we love, like going to the beach, swimming, and just generally being more active outdoors. If you’re one of the millions of Americans who can’t wait to get a nice summer tan, read on. Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? This week we’re sharing some important information you need to know to be safe in the sun this summer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most commonly occurring cancer in the U.S. Although some Americans may be at higher risk than others, anyone can get skin cancer. You can even get skin cancer from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from a tanning bed. There is no safe tan! The good news is that skin cancer is very preventable, if you take steps to keep yourself and your family safe. This is especially important if are at higher risk for developing skin cancer.
Risk factors for skin cancer vary, but general risk factors include having:
- lighter natural skin color
- family or personal history of skin cancer
- exposure to sun
- history of sunburns, especially during childhood
history of indoor tanning
- skin that burns, freckles, or gets red easily in the sun
- blue or green eyes
- blond or red hair
moles (certain types), and a large number of them
You can reduce your exposure to UV light by taking some simple precautions, including:
- staying out of the sun during peak hours from noon to 3pm
- seeking shade, in particular during those peak hours, if you will be outside
- wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15, even if it is cloudy out
- wear a wide-brimmed hat made of tightly woven fabric like canvas—straw hats are probably not the best at keeping the sun’s rays off your face and neck
- try to wear long sleeves and long pants (we know, it’s Florida, and it’s HOT!) made of tightly woven fabric, in particular if you are at high risk
So if we should limit our exposure to UV light, how will we get enough vitamin D, you ask? Actually, our skin can only produce a small amount of vitamin D at one time. According to the CDC, “once the body has reached this limit, spending more time in the sun will not continue to increase vitamin D levels. However, continued time in the sun will increase your skin cancer risk.” We can also get vitamin D through food and/or dietary supplements without (over)exposing ourselves to UV light.
If you think you’re pretty sun smart, try your hand at this sun safety quiz from the American Cancer Society to find out your Sun Safety IQ.
Be safe in the sun this summer!