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UV Safety: How to Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer

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Summer is in full swing and with the beautiful weather, everyone is excited to spend hours at the pool and days at picnics and barbecues. With some peak summer activities yet to happen, it is the perfect time to educate yourself about how you can stay safe in the sun and prevent the most common cancer in the United States: skin cancer. The sun emits ultraviolet radiation which is the main cause of skin cancer. Protecting yourself from the sun can be overwhelming due to the overabundance of sunscreens, sunblocks and ranges of SPF’s. Add those factors to the fact that many people simply forget that the sun can be harmful and you have many people who end up leaving themselves susceptible to developing skin cancer. Here is what you need to know about skin cancer care, and how you can prevent it.

Risk Factors

Anyone can get skin cancer, but there are several things that increase your chances of developing it.
• Family or personal history of cancer
• Fair or lighter skin complexion
• Constant exposure to the sun
• Skin that burns or turns red easily
• Lighter eye color such as blue or green

How You Can Protect Yourself

The following are steps you can take to reduce your chances of developing skin cancer.

• Wear sunblock or sunscreen
  • Sunscreen soaks into your skin and UV rays
  • Sunblock does exactly what its name implies: blocks or reflects the sun’s harmful rays
  • Both do an excellent job of protecting skin.
• Buy SPF 15 or higher for maximum coverage. SPF stands for sun protection factor. The number shows how effective your sunscreen will be at protecting the skin from the sun’s harmful rays.
• Save money by buying generic sunscreen or sunblock. Most of them contain the same ingredients as their name brand counterparts. As long as the SPF is high enough you should be protected.
• Reapply sunscreen frequently to ensure you remain protected. Even sunscreen that claims to be waterproof needs to be reapplied frequently.
• Do not skimp on the amount of sunblock/sunscreen you use. Remember, even if you put on a high SPF it will only be affected if all areas are properly covered.
• Avoid being out in the sun between the hours of 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. This is when the sun is at its strongest and most dangerous state.
• Wear protective clothing such as sun hats, and sunglasses.
• Do not use tanning beds and sunlamps. The UV rays from these items are just as harmful as the sun’s rays.
• Wear sunscreen/sunblock in the summer even if it is not extremely sunny outside. The clouds only block a small percentage of the sun’s harmful rays, so you still need to protect your skin.
• Kids and older adults have lower immunity to diseases and need extra protection from the sun. Buy special sunscreen/sunblock for kids with special formulas for their sensitive skin and high SPF’s and a higher SPF for older adults.
• Lastly: Remember that sunscreen takes a while to actually be absorbed into the skin. Apply sunscreen about 30 minutes prior to being out in the sun for maximum protection.

You can have fun in the sun while protecting yourself from skin cancer by following a few simple steps!

You can find more ways to prevent cancer at NorthShore is an integrated health system with dedicated medical offices and hospitals in the Chicago area. NorthShore’s Kellogg Cancer Center offers comprehensive, compassionate cancer care for oncology patients and their families. Visit NorthShore online today!


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