Posted by: Skin and Cancer Institute in Skin Cancer

Graphic of a young woman putting sunscreen on

Sun safety is important all year, but this month, we’re strengthening our commitment to keep you safe from UV radiation. July is UV Safety Awareness Month, a time we encourage everyone to take steps to protect themselves from the dangers of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. 

Summertime is all about enjoying the sunny weather, but it’s crucial to minimize your ultraviolet radiation exposure while you’re at it. 

What is UV radiation? 

Ultraviolet radiation is a type of electromagnetic radiation that is invisible to the naked eye. It is made up of high-energy waves that can damage DNA and cause sunburns. It comes from the sun and can also come from artificial sources like tanning beds.

UV radiation is divided into two main categories: UVA (aging) and UVB (burning). UVA rays are the longest and can penetrate deep into the skin, causing premature aging and wrinkles. UVB rays are shorter and cause sunburns. Both types of UV radiation can be harmful to your skin.

What are the risks associated with UV radiation?

Exposure to UV radiation can cause sunburn, premature aging, and skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. In fact, according to the American Cancer Society, more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the US. Plus, skin cancer rates are on the rise. 

Did you know that just a few minutes of sun exposure each day can add up over time and put you at risk for serious health problems? That’s why it’s essential to protect yourself from UV radiation exposure to minimize your risk of one of the three types of skin cancer.

Types of Skin Cancer

There are three main types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.

  1. Basal cell carcinoma-is the most common type of skin cancer, accounting for about 80 percent of all cases. It is typically slow-growing and can be treated effectively with surgery or radiation.
  2. Squamous cell carcinoma-makes up about 20 percent of all skin cancer cases and tends to occur on sun-exposed areas of the body such as the face, neck, and hands.
  3. Melanoma-is the most serious type of skin cancer, accounting for about four percent of all cases. It can be very aggressive and spread quickly to other body parts if not caught early.

Tips for minimizing sun exposure

You can do a few things to minimize your sun exposure and reduce your risk of skin damage.

  • Try to stay in the shade as much as possible. If you are in the sun, wear protective clothing such as a long-sleeved shirt and pants.
  • You should also apply sunscreen with a high SPF rating to exposed skin.
  • Avoid being in the sun during peak hours, typically between 10 am and 4 pm.

By taking these precautions, you can help to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation.

What sunscreen provides the best protection against UV rays?

When it comes to sunscreen, there are a few things you should look for in order to ensure that you’re getting the best possible protection. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Make sure that the sunscreen is broad-spectrum, which will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. And, choose a water-resistant sunscreen if you’ll be spending time in the water.

Common myths about UV radiation that you need to stop believing

There are several myths about UV radiation that circulate each year. Here are a few of the most common UV myths – and why you should stop believing them.

Myth 1: I don’t need to worry about UV radiation when it’s cloudy.

The truth is that UV rays are just as harmful on cloudy days as on sunny days. Up to 80% of UV rays can penetrate through clouds. So, even if you’re only going to be outside for a short period of time on a cloudy day, it’s important to take precautions against UV exposure.

Myth 2: I don’t need to worry about UV radiation if I have dark skin.

While it’s true that people with darker skin have a higher natural SPF than those with lighter skin, this does not mean that they are immune to the effects of UV radiation. Darker skin can still suffer from sunburn, premature aging, and even skin cancer. So, it’s essential for everyone – regardless of skin color – to take steps to protect themselves from UV radiation exposure.

Myth 3: I don’t need to worry about UV radiation when wearing sunscreen.

While sunscreen is a vital part of any sun safety plan, it’s not the only thing you need to do to protect yourself from UV radiation. You should also take steps to avoid excessive sun exposure and wear protective clothing when you are in the sun.

What are the consequences of not protecting yourself from UV radiation?

If you don’t take steps to protect yourself from UV radiation, you put yourself at risk for a number of serious health consequences. These include sunburn, premature aging, eye damage, and skin cancer. 

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States, and UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 99,000 new melanoma cases are diagnosed in the United States each year, leading to about 7,000 deaths.  

But, skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. So, make sure to take steps to protect yourself during UV safety awareness month and all year long. 

How can you tell if you’ve gotten too much sun exposure?

There are a few signs that you may have gotten too much sun exposure. These include red or sunburned skin, pain or tenderness in the sun-exposed area, skin that is warm to the touch, and swelling. If you experience any of these symptoms, get out of the sun and seek shade immediately.

What can you do about too much UV radiation exposure?

If you have gotten too much sun exposure, you can do a few things to help relieve your symptoms. These include taking a cool bath or shower, using a cool compress, and taking over-the-counter pain medication. If your symptoms are severe, you may need to seek medical attention.

Sun damage is cumulative.

It’s important to remember that UV radiation exposure can build over time. So, even if you don’t experience any immediate effects from too much sun, you may be at risk for long-term health consequences.

Do regular skin self-checks

It’s essential to do regular self-checks for skin cancer, especially if you’re fair-skinned or have a history of sun exposure. Here’s how to do a skin self-check:

  • Start by examining your entire body in a well-lit room, using a mirror to help you see all areas. Look for any new or changing moles or growths on the skin. Check for any spots that are red, scaly, or bleeding.
  • Pay special attention to areas that are exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, chest, and arms. Also, check your back, legs, and feet. Use a hand mirror to help you see all areas of your body.
  • If you find anything unusual, make an appointment with a dermatologist immediately. They can determine if it’s skin cancer or something else. Early detection is key to the successful treatment of skin cancer.

See your dermatologist annually for a skin check.

Over time, UV exposure can lead to changes in the skin that may be precancerous or cancerous. A dermatologist can spot these changes early and recommend treatment options, which could help prevent the development of skin cancer.

In addition to checking for signs of skin cancer, your dermatologist can also offer guidance on how to care for your skin and protect it from further damage. They can recommend specific products and ingredients to suit your individual needs, and they can also provide tips on reducing exposure to UV radiation.

So don’t wait – book that appointment today during UV Safety Awareness Month! Your skin will thank you for it.