It’s important to wear sunscreen year-around to lower your chances of getting skin cancer.
Why? Harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays are present year-around. They can even filter through dark cloud coverage to reach your skin.
“If you’re outside, any uncovered areas of your body are exposed to UV rays,” says Susan Chon, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Dermatology at MD Anderson. And the primary cause of skin cancer is too much sun exposure.
More than two million Americans are diagnosed each year with skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. This makes it the most common type of cancer in the United States.
The good news: It’s one of the easiest to prevent, including the most serious form, malignant melanoma. Other more common types of skin cancer, such as basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are treatable if found early.
“So, it’s important to wear sunscreen year-around to lower your chances of getting skin cancer,” Chon says.
Here are some tips to remember:
• Protect your skin on cloudy days
Don’t let a cloudy day fool you into forgoing sunscreen. Even through cloud coverage, UV rays reach the Earth’s surface and your skin. Some studies even show an effect called cloud enhancement of UV radiation. The sun’s beams reflect off the sides of clouds causing radiation to be more focused and dangerous.
• Apply sunscreen liberally to dry skin 30 minutes before going outdoors.
• Pay extra attention to face, ears, hands and arms.
• For sensitive areas, use sunscreen with zinc oxide.
• Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
• Don’t forget the lips! Use SPF 30 lip balm.
• Cover up with a long-sleeved jacket, hat and gloves.
• Wear wraparound sunglasses or goggles with 100% UV protection.
• Use sunscreen when skiing
If you are getting ready to hit the ski slopes, beware: In high altitudes, UV rays are even more intense. Plus, the risk for sunburn is higher because the thinner atmosphere doesn’t block as many of the sun’s harmful rays. To make matters worse, snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays. A day on the slopes can do as much damage to your skin as a day on the beach.
The key to preventing skin cancer is to protect your skin from harmful UV rays – all 12 months of the year.