Health Feature Articles
Follow these sun tips to avoid skin cancer
Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition Specialist, Harrison County, University of Missouri Extension
The American Cancer Society reports that more than 1 million skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the United States. Avoid becoming a statistic by taking care of yourself and your family in the sun.
Exposure to the sun for long periods of time or strong exposure that causes burning can lead to skin cancer. Tanning beds and sun lamps should also be avoided. Here are some tips for avoiding too much time in the sun and preventing skin cancer:
- Slip on a shirt! Covering up and protecting skin from cancer-causing UV light helps. Cover up with long sleeves, long pants and long skirts. If you can easily see light through the cloth, UV light can also get through to the skin.
- Slop on sunscreen! To properly apply it, follow the product directions. Most sunscreens work best if applied 20 to 30 minutes before exposure to the sun. Be sure to cover face, ears, hands and arms. If insect repellant or makeup is also being worn, apply sunscreen first. Use a sunscreen of sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher. In most cases, reapply sunscreen at least every two hours while out in the sun.
- Slap on a hat! Keep in mind that, like clothing, if you can see the sun through the hat, the sun’s UV rays can see your skin. Tightly woven brims that are 2 to 3 inches wide and that go all the way around are best. These shade and protect the top of the head, neck, ears and face. Baseball caps may protect the top of the head and part of the face, so be sure to use sunscreen on other parts of the head and neck that are not protected.
- Wrap on sunglasses! They should block 99 to 100 percent of the UVA and UVB radiation. Sunglasses are effective if the label says “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements.”
So remember: Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, slap on a hat and wrap on sunglasses. In addition, take your outside activities to a shady area from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., which are the strongest, sunniest times. Another way to know when the sun is strongest is to look at your shadow: If it's shorter than you are, stay in the shade!
Updates were made to this article by Julie Birsinger, Nursing Student intern, and Molly Vetter-Smith MPH, MEd, RD, State Health Education Specialist, University of Missouri Extension
Last Updated 10/15/2010