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Protect Skin from Sun and UV Exposure

This picture shows a blue sky with a few white clouds and a beaming sun.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30+ on sunny and cloudy days at least 30 minutes before going outdoors.

Protecting skin from the sun is the best way to prevent skin cancer. It is especially important for childhood cancer survivors.

Sun exposure is the major environmental risk factor for skin cancers, both melanoma and non-melanoma. Sunlight, as well as indoor tanning equipment, contains ultraviolet (UV) rays. When exposed to UV rays, skin becomes susceptible to skin cancer. Many health organizations, including the World Health Organization, American Cancer Society, American Academy of Dermatology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics, have issued guidelines advocating sun protection measures.

Sun Safety Tips

  • Use sunscreen: Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of SPF 30+ liberally on both sunny and cloudy days at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. Broad spectrum means the product offers protection from 2 types of damaging UV rays – UVA and UVB.

Sunscreen should be re-applied every 2 hours, or after working, swimming, playing or exercising outdoors because water and perspiration can remove sunscreen. Zinc oxide can provide extra protection on the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, and on the shoulders.

  • Wear protective clothing:
    • A hat with a wide brim offers good sun protection for eyes, ears, face, and the back or neck.
    • Sunglasses that provide 99-100 percent UV protection will reduce eye damage from sun exposure.
    • Tightly woven, loose-fitting clothes provide additional protection from the sun.
  • Limit time in the midday sun: The sun’s UV rays are the strongest between 10 a.m. -4 p.m. Try to limit exposure to the sun during these hours.
  • Pay attention to the UV index: The UV Index is a measurement of the amount of UV radiation expected to reach the earth’s surface when the sun is highest in the sky (around midday.) The UV Index can range from 0-12.
    • 0-2: Low
    • 3-5: Moderate
    • 6-7: High
    • 8-10: Very High
    • 11-12: Extreme
This picture shows a cyclist on a road bike wearing a helmet under a blue sky with a bright sun.

When the UV index predicts moderate or higher levels of UV radiation it is especially important to take precautions.

While people should always take precautions, it is especially important when the UV Index predicts levels of moderate or higher. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has local UV index forecasts on its website. They can be found by entering your ZIP code at epa.gov or using the mobile app. The UV index is also included in many local weather forecasts.

  • Stay in the shade: Find shade when UV rays are the most intense, but shade does not offer complete sun protection. Continue to use sunscreen.
  • Do not use tanning beds or sun lamps: Indoor tanning equipment, including beds, lamps, bulbs, booths, emits UV radiation. The amount of the UV radiation produced during indoor tanning is similar to that of the sun. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization's International Agency of Research on Cancer panel have declared UV radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, to be a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance).

Self-tanning lotions and salon spray tans are healthier options for those who want the appearance of tanned skin.

Vitamin D Supplements

Sun exposure is needed to make Vitamin D in the skin. Since lack of sunlight may lead to Vitamin D deficiency, survivors may need to take a Vitamin D supplement. Survivors should check with their health care provider about Vitamin D supplements.


Reviewed: June 2018

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