Overexposure to UV (ultraviolet) rays is the main cause of skin cancer. Sunlight is the main source of UV rays. While most people know to use sun protection when spending the day at the beach, park or other sunny locations, you should also use sun protection to limit the day-to-day exposure to the sun. It is not recommended to avoid time in the sun altogether. However, there are things you can do to limit your exposure to UV rays.
While seeking shade is the most effective protection from UV rays, the American Cancer Society recommends that if you are going to be in the sun remember to “Slip! Slop! Slap!® and Wrap!” to protect yourself from UV rays.
In addition to the above precautions, you should avoid the use of tanning beds and sun lamps. Tanning beds and lamps give off both UVA and UVB rays which can cause long-term skin damage and can contribute to skin cancer. Tanning bed use has been linked to increased risk for melanoma, especially if started before a person is 30.
Everyone should monitor their skin regularly and note any changes to their skin. Self exams and regular skin exams by your doctor can help catch potential skin cancers early, when they are easier to treat.
- Slip on a shirt – Wear clothing to cover as much skin as possible. Long sleeves and long pants are best. Tightly woven materials protect better than loosely woven clothes. If you can see sun through the fabric, UV rays can get to your skin.
- Slop on sunscreen – Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA and UVB rays) and with sun protection factor (SPF) values of 30 or higher are recommended. Apply liberally 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and re-apply every two hours.
- Slap on a hat – A hat with a 2 to 3 inch brim all around is ideal. Baseball hats protect the eyes, face and top of head but do not protect the ears or neck. Remember to use sunscreen on areas not covered by your hat.
- Wrap on sunglasses to protect the eyes and skin around them – Choose sunglasses that block 99% or 100% UVA and UVB rays. Larger glasses protect more of the skin around the eyes.