According to the Center for Disease Control, protection from ultraviolet (UV) exposure during childhood and adolescence reduces the risk for skin cancer in adulthood. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over one million new cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year.
Effective sun protection is practiced by less than one-third of U.S. youth. In a recent survey by the American Cancer Society of youth aged 11–18 years, routinely practiced sun-protection behaviors among young people on sunny days were wearing sunglasses (32%) or long pants (21%), staying in the shade (22%), and applying sunscreen (31%). Fifty-eight percent of those using sunscreen, used sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or more when at the beach or pool. A recent survey of parents by the CDC found that 43% of white children under 12 years old experienced at least one sunburn in the past year.
Who Is at Risk?
Although anyone can get skin cancer, individuals with certain risk factors are particularly susceptible.
The following increase a person's risk of developing skin cancer:
- Light skin color, hair color or eye color.
- Family history of skin cancer.
- Personal history of skin cancer.
- Chronic exposure to the sun.
- History of sunburns early in life.
- Certain types and a large number of moles.
- Freckles, which indicate sun sensitivity and sun damage.
Back to top
Preventing Skin Cancer: Sun Protection Options
People can take many simple steps to plan ahead and protect themselves from the sun's UV rays. These options are important to remember all year, during all outdoor activities, and not just when at the beach or pool.
SEEK SHADE -- Because the sun's UV rays are strongest and do the most damage during midday, outdoor activities should be avoided at this time. If this is not possible, then finding the shade of a tree, beach umbrella, or tent is a practical way to protect the skin.
COVER UP -- A shirt, beach cover-up, or pants are all good choices. However, a typical shirt actually has a sun protection factor (SPF) rating substantially lower than the recommended SPF 15, so it is wise to double up on protection by using sunscreen with at least sun protection factor SPF 15 and stay in the shade when possible.
GET A HAT -- The head and neck are common sites for skin cancers to occur, so a wide-brimmed hat should be worn to shade the face, ears, scalp, and neck from the sun's UV rays. A hat with a four-inch brim provides the most protection. If a baseball cap is worn, sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 should also be used to protect the ears and neck.
GRAB SHADES -- Sunglasses protect the tender skin around the eyes and reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Look for sunglasses that block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses are ideal because they keep UV rays from hitting the sides of the eyes.
RUB IT ON -- Sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and both UVA and UVB protection should be used whenever a person spends time outdoors. To be effective, sunscreen needs to be generously applied 30 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied after swimming or sweating.
Back to top