Objective: Learn sun-safe behaviors.
As you learned in module 11, limiting exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can help prevent skin cancer. The bad news is that most Americans do not protect themselves from UV rays. They let themselves tan and burn even though both tanning and burning raise their risk of skin cancer.
To prevent skin cancer, you need to protect yourself from the sun's ultraviolet rays. You need to do it reliably and for your whole life.
Here are ways to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the sun:
The sun's UV rays are strongest during the middle of the day. This is when they do the most damage. So it's best to avoid direct sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Get under an umbrella, tree, or other shelter before you need relief from the sun. But remember: UV rays can reflect off almost any surface, including sand, snow, and concrete. And reflected rays can reach you in the shade. What's your best bet to protect your skin and lips? Use sunscreen or wear protective clothing when you are outside, even in the shade.
Clothes can help protect your skin against the sun's UV rays. Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric are best. Darker colors may protect better than lighter colors. And a dry t-shirt protects much better than a wet one.
Dressing for sun protection doesn't have to be a big chore. You just need to know your options and use them. At least try to wear a t-shirt or a beach cover-up if long sleeves and pants aren't practical. But keep this in mind: Most t-shirts have a rating much lower than the recommended SPF 15. [See more on SPF under "4) Rub It On" below.] So put sunscreen on under your t-shirt, as well as on exposed skin. And stay in the shade when you can.
Hats can help shield you from the sun's UV rays. Choose a hat that shades all of your head and neck. For the most protection, wear a hat with a brim all the way around. The brim should shade your face, ears, and back of your neck. If you wear a baseball cap, you still need to protect your ears and the back of your neck. Wear clothing that covers those areas, use sunscreen, or stay in the shade.
A tightly woven fabric like canvas protects best. Try to avoid straw hats with holes that let sunlight through.
help prevent problems that come from too much sun. Most sunscreens
interact with the skin to absorb, reflect, or scatter the sun's rays.
All sunscreens have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) number. The SPF number tells how well the sunscreen protects from UVB rays. The higher the SPF number, the more protection. As a rule of thumb, always use a sunscreen with at least SPF 15. Check the label to make sure your sunscreen also blocks UVA rays. (See module 6, "Ultraviolet Radiation" for more about different types of UV rays.)
Sunscreens come in lotions, gels, sprays, and other forms. So there are plenty of options. There are also sunscreens for special skin types, like oily or sensitive skin. There are sunscreens you can wear when you sweat or go in the water.
A spray might be best for hard-to-reach areas. A dry "sport" lotion might be best when you know you're going to sweat. And an oil-free gel might be best where you tend to break out. Whatever type of sunscreen you choose, be sure that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. And be sure it offers at least SPF 15.
Follow the directions on the package when you put on your sunscreen. Otherwise, you may not get the protection you think you're getting. Today's sunscreens hold up better through sweating and getting wet than older sunscreens did. But you should still reapply sunscreen often. Do this especially during peaks sun hours or after swimming or sweating.
Keep this in mind: Sunscreen is not meant to let you spend more time in the sun than you would otherwise. And it's important to use other sun protection options together with sunscreen: cover up, wear a hat and sunglasses, and look for shade.
Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from the sun. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays are best. Most sunglasses sold in the United States meet this standard. Wrap-around sunglasses work best because they keep UV rays from sneaking in from the side.
Any source of UV rays can damage your skin and raise your risk of skin cancer. This is true whether it's the sun or a bulb at a tanning salon.
The UV Index comes out daily in cities across the United States. You have already visited a website that can help you track this index. Newspapers often publish the local UV Index, as well. Remember that the UV Index is only a guideline. Not everyone can stay safely in the sun for the same amount of time. Always consider your skin type. And plan to protect yourself.
Sun-safe habits shouldn't keep you from enjoying the outdoors. It just takes a little planning and the right gear. Then you can have fun outside doing something good for your body and safe for your skin.
the winners of CDC's 2001 Choose Your Cover and Seventeen Magazine
Photo Contest http://www.cdc.gov/ChooseYourCover/
Test how much you've
learned. Visit CDC's Choose Your Cover Q+A page http://www.cdc.gov/ChooseYourCover/
Go to an open caption recording** of "Sun-Safe Savvy" [ or read lyrics ]. Courtesy of California Department of Health Services, Skin Cancer Prevention Program. [**NOTE: RealPlayer is needed to listen to this song. If you don't already have it installed on your computer, you can download a free copy at http://www.real.com.*]
Learn more about how to protect yourself from "solar assault" at http://www.ca5aday.com/programs/skin/skin.htm*
* Links to
non-Federal organizations are provided solely as a service to our users. Links
do not constitute an endorsement of any organization by CDC or the Federal
Government, and none should be inferred. The CDC is not responsible for the
content of the individual organization Web pages found at these links.
This page last reviewed April 24, 2007
United States Department of Health Human Services