Skin Cancer

Father applying sunscreen to daughter

When you’re having fun outdoors, don’t forget to protect yourself from overexposure to the sun. Unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays in as little as 15 minutes. Even if it’s cool and cloudy, you still need protection—UV rays, not the temperature, do the damage. You are more likely to get skin cancer if you have a family history of skin cancer, a large number of moles or unusual moles, fair skin, or tan indoors or outdoors.


Key Facts

  • Most skin cancers are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light
  • UV rays can reach you on cloudy days and can reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand, and snow.
  • Any change in the color of your skin after being outside, whether it is a sunburn or a tan, indicates damage from UV rays.
  • Sunglasses protect your eyes from UV rays and reduce the risk of cataracts. They also protect the tender skin around your eyes from sun exposure.
  • Fair-skinned adults aged 65 and older and people with a large number of moles or unusual moles are more likely to get melanoma.


Woman reading book in the shade
Seek Shade

UV rays are the strongest from late morning through midafternoon, so it's best to plan indoor activities then. If this is not possible, try to stay in the shade.

Woman riding bicycle with long sleeves on
Wear Protective Clothing

Loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection from the sun. Hats should shade the face, scalp, ears, and neck.

Man playing golf and wearing sunglasses
Wear Sunglasses

Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.

Mother applying sunscreen to daughter's face
Apply Sunscreen

Use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection. Reapply it at least every 2 hours and after swimming, sweating, or toweling off.

Prevention Tips

  • Seek shade, especially from late morning through midafternoon.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs and a hat with a wide brim that shades your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Put on sunscreen with broad spectrum (UVA and UVB) protection and sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher.
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps. The UV rays from them are as dangerous as the UV rays from the sun.