Protecting Yourself from the Sun to Avoid Skin Cancer

Before leaving home for a day of outdoor activity, take appropriate precautions to ensure that your and your family’s skin is well-protected, as the majority of all skin cancers are caused by the sun.

According to Susan Chon, M.D., assistant professor of dermatology at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 is a good choice for most people. One ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) is considered sufficient to properly cover sun-exposed areas. To get the most protection from sunscreen, generously reapply throughout the day. This is especially important because factors such as humidity, perspiration and uneven product application can cause sunscreen to lose its effectiveness.

Sun Protection Checklist
Chon recommends gathering the following items before heading outdoors.

  • Sunscreen with SPF 30 or greater
  • Lip balm with SPF 30
  • Hat with a brim or cap
  • Long-sleeved shirt (preferably sun protective clothing)
  • Sunglasses with UV protection

"These are great items to keep handy in your bag to prepare for the sun as it intensifies throughout the day," Chon said.

Application Time Line
Chon suggests the following time line for when to best use these items.

Morning: 8 – 10 a.m. Apply sunscreen with SPF 30, at least 30 minutes before sun exposure.
Reapply sunscreen every two hours.
Wear a hat, sunglasses and lip balm.

Midday: 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. (hottest time of the day)
Seek shade for extra protection.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt with a hat and sunglasses.
Reapply sunscreen and lip balm every two hours.

Afternoon: 3 – 5 p.m.
Keep wearing a hat and sunglasses.
Reapply sunscreen and lip balm every two hours.

"Remember, if you are sweating or swimming, you may need to reapply more often," Chon said. Avoid reflective surfaces such as water, sand, snow and concrete. "You can burn from indirect exposure to the sun, too," Chon said.

According to the American Cancer Society, more than one million cases of basal cell or squamous cell cancers, the most common types of skin cancer, occur annually. The most serious form of skin cancer is melanoma, of which more than 60,000 people are expected to be diagnosed in 2008.

Source: University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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