You can reduce the risk of getting melanoma by protecting yourself and your children when you are in the sun. This means more than just wearing sunscreen on hot summer days. Up to 80% of the sun's rays can reach you through light clouds, mist, and fog. You need to protect yourself even on cloudy days. Fresh snow reflects up to 95% of the sun's rays, so remember to wear sunscreen in the snow. You can also get sunburned when you are in or on the water, so take precautions when you are swimming or boating.
How to Protect Yourself
- Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM. This is when the sun's rays are the strongest. Check the local UV index to see what kinds of sun protection you might need.
- If you have to be in the sun, wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Tightly woven, dark-colored fabrics give you more protection than light-colored, loosely woven clothes.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen every day (one that gives protection against both UV-A and UV-B rays).
- Protect yourself during any outdoor activity with a sunscreen that has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) rating of 15 or higher.
- Apply sunscreen about ½ hour before you go into the sun. This allows the sunscreen to seep into the upper skin layers, giving you better protection.
- Protect your lips with a lip balm that has an SPF of 15 or higher.
- Reapply sunscreen (even waterproof sunscreen) every 2 hours, especially if you're swimming or sweating.
- Wear a hat with a broad brim (4 inches wide).
- Wear sunglasses with UV-protective lenses. The label should say that the lenses block at least 99% of UV-A and UV-B radiation. Sunglasses can protect both your eyes and the skin around your eyes.
- Some medications can make you more sun-sensitive, including oral contraceptives, antibiotics, skin treatments, and medications for blood pressure, arthritis, and depression. Read the labels on your medications and talk with your doctor, to see what extra steps you may need to take when you're in the sun.
How to Protect Your Children
Even one severe sunburn during childhood or teenage years can increase the risk of skin cancer later. Children get 80% of their lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18, so it is important to protect them.
- During the summer, do not let children go outdoors without sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or higher—even on cloudy days.
- Make sure that your children stay out of the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Keep babies who are 6 months or younger out of the sun whenever possible.
How to choose sunscreen:
Look for broad-spectrum coverage, and SPF 15 or higher
Sunscreens will protect your skin, especially sunscreens that reflect, absorb, and/or scatter both UV-A and UV-B radiation. These are sunscreens with "broad-spectrum coverage." Sunscreens are also rated in strength, according to a sun protection factor (SPF) number. The higher the SPF number, the more protection from sunburn it provides. Sunscreens with an SPF value of 2 to 11 provide little protection against sunburns. Sunscreens with an SPF of 12 to 29 provide moderate protection. Those with an SPF of 30 or higher provide the most protection against sunburn.