UV Light and Cancer Risk
Skin Cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types of skin cancer—basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas—are highly curable, but can be disfiguring and costly to treat. Melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous and causes the most deaths. The majority of these three types of skin cancer are caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) light (1).
There is no such thing as a safe tan. The increase in skin pigment, called melanin, which causes the tan color change in your skin is a sign of damage (2).
The sun, sunlamps and tanning booths all give off ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Exposure to UV radiation causes early aging of the skin and skin damage that can lead to skin cancer.
People of all ages and skin tones should limit the amount of time they spend in the sun, especially between mid-morning and late afternoon, and avoid other sources of UV radiation, such as tanning beds. It is important to keep in mind that UV radiation is reflected by sand, water, snow and ice and can go through windshields and windows. Even though skin cancer is more common among people with a light skin tone, people of all skin tones can develop skin cancer, including those with dark skin.
Follow these tips to protect your skin from sunlight:
- Wear a hat with a wide brim all around that shades your face, neck, and ears. Baseball caps and some sun visors protect only parts of your skin.
- Wear sunglasses that block UV radiation to protect the skin around your eyes.
- Wear long sleeves and long pants. Tightly woven, dark fabrics are best. Some fabrics are rated with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). The higher the rating, the greater the protection from sunlight.
- Use sunscreen products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Some doctors suggest using a product with an SPF of at least 30. Apply the product’s recommended amount to uncovered skin 30 minutes before going outside, and apply again every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
Keep in mind that the sun’s rays…
- Are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
- Can go through light clothing, windshields, windows, and clouds
- Are reflected by sand, water, snow, ice, and pavement (3)