Don’t feel the burn this summer – Protect yourself

July 6, 2023 Providence Cancer Team

[5 MIN READ]  

In this article:  

  • During UV Safety Awareness Month this July, we’re sharing important information about preventing skin cancer and sunburn. 

  • Did you know you can get a sunburn while driving in your car, skiing or even lounging in the shade? 

  • Look for a sunscreen that has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. 

Decades ago, most people didn’t realize the sun’s rays can be harmful, so they stayed outside in the sun for hours on end, basking in the warmth and aiming for tanned skin. Today, we know better — and we have statistics from the Skin Cancer Foundation to guide us: 

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. 
  • More than two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour. 
  • Having five or more sunburns doubles your risk for melanoma, the most severe skin cancer. 
  • When detected early, the five-year survival rate for melanoma is 99%. 

During UV Safety Awareness Month this July, we’re sharing some sun safety resources and information you can use to protect your skin — especially during the summer when you’re outdoors and have the most exposed skin. The more you know about ways to protect your skin, the more you can limit your risk of skin cancer or benefit from less-invasive treatment options.  

Preventing skin cancer 

Most of your exposure to the sun occurs before age 25, so it’s critical to develop good skin protection habits when you’re younger. The World Health Organization recommends you get between five and 15 minutes of sun exposure two to three times a week. When you do, be sure to wear sunscreen and sun-protective clothing and stay in the shade as much as possible. It’s best to use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. Anything less than that puts you at risk for sunburn and skin cancer — especially if you have pale skin. 

Reapply sunscreen every two hours when you are out in the sun, and every half hour if you’re sweating. If you are just going in and out of the car, you can reapply every four hours. 

Most importantly, avoid tanning beds. They use more ultraviolet (UV) radiation, and the rays penetrate even deeper into your skin. In fact, the number of melanoma cases diagnosed in women in their 40s who have a history of tanning bed use is growing. 

When it comes to looking for signs of skin cancer, doctors recommend you start doing skin checks as early as possible. Fortunately, suspicious moles share specific characteristics that can alert you to when you should see your doctor. 

Surprising ways to get sunburned 

If you don’t use sunscreen while spending hours in the sun, you’re likely to get a sunburn. But that isn’t the only way sunburn can happen. Here are three unexpected situations in which sunburn can occur: 

  1. Driving in the car – You can’t control where the sun is when you’re driving, it’s easy to get unintentionally exposed in the car. You can avoid sunburn while driving by installing window film on your windows, which screen out UVA and UVB radiation. If it’s a sunny day, you should also apply sunscreen while you’re driving. 
  2. Skiing – If you love to hit the slopes during the winter, don’t forget your sunscreen. Bright sun reflects off the white snow — and directly onto the skiers on that snow. Always remember to apply broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least a 30 SPF — and reapply every two hours. 
  3. In the shade – Even when you think you’re safe hanging out under a tree or umbrella, you’re still at risk for sunburn. The reflection of UV rays off the pavement or sand can burn your skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “the amount of UV present beneath an umbrella can be up to 84% of that in [the] sun depending on the levels of indirect UV.” Regardless of whether you plan on staying in the shade, remember to apply sunscreen. 

Protecting your kids from sunburn 

Preventing sunburn during childhood is an important way to avoid sun damage and skin cancer later in life. If you’re taking a child younger than six months old outside, dress them in lightweight clothing that covers their skin, and keep them in the shade. Kids older than six months need head-to-toe coverage when they’re out in the sun. It can be helpful to purchase UV protection swimwear, which adds an extra layer of safety. Help your child apply sunscreen and set a good example by using it yourself. You can also encourage your kids to avoid sun exposure at school by playing in the shade, wearing sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats, wearing long-sleeved shirts, and putting on sunscreen before recess. 

If you have teens who want to have bronze skin during the summer, be consistent with your anti-tanning message, repeating it in as many different ways as possible. Make sure your teens see you liberally applying sunscreen and making an effort to stay out of the sun. If your children insist they look better with a tan, you can suggest non-UV tanning options, such as self-tanners and spray tans. 

Your skin is the largest organ of your body, so protect it. Remember that no tan is worth the pain of a sunburn or the frightening diagnosis of skin cancer. 

-- 

Find a doctor 

The doctors and dermatologists at Providence can help you find ways to protect you and your family from harmful UV rays this summer. Through Providence Express Care Virtual, you can also access a full range of health care services. If you need to find a primary care doctor, dermatologist, or oncologist, you can use our provider directory

Download the Providence App 

We’re with you, wherever you are. Make Providence’s app your personalized connection to your health. Schedule appointments, conduct virtual visits, message your doctor, view your health records and more. Learn more and download the app

Related resources 

Protect yourself from skin cancer 

Where to treat common summertime injuries 

Avoiding heat-related illnesses of summer 

This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional’s instructions. 

About the Author

The Providence Cancer Team is committed to bringing you the most up-to-date insights about treatments, prevention, care and support available. We know cancer diagnoses strain you both mentally and physically, and we hope to provide a small piece of hope to you or your loved ones who are fighting the cancer battle with useful and clinically-backed advice.

More Content by Providence Cancer Team
Previous Article
Include vaccines in your back-to-school plan
Include vaccines in your back-to-school plan

The new school year is the best time to make sure your child is up to date with their recommended vaccines....

Next Article
6 ways to live well this summer
6 ways to live well this summer

Try out these six activities to improve your health and well-being this summer.