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Stay Sun Safe This Summer!

Summer is here. That means BBQ’s, beaches, and lots of sun! Summer also means longer days, so it’s natural to want to stay outside longer to enjoy the great weather. However, this also means more exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. UV rays – from the sun and other sources like tanning beds – are the leading cause of skin cancer. Too much exposure can also cause sunburn, eye damage, and premature wrinkles.1

The American Cancer Society promotes the following sun safety behaviors for all people, every day:

  • Limit the amount of time you spend in direct sun, especially when the sun’s rays are most intense, generally from 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m.
  • Wear protective clothing when you’re out in the sun, such as:
    • Long sleeves
    • Sunglasses
    • Hat that shades your face, neck and ears
  • Use a board-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and reapply at least every 2 hours
  • Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps which can cause serious long-term skin damage and contribute to skin cancer
  • Protect your skin even on cool or cloudy days
  • Give yourself regular skin self-exams and schedule periodic skin exams with your health care provider

Choosing the right sunscreen:1

While you should use sunscreen every day of the year, it’s even more important during summertime, when the days are longer, the sun is stronger, and it’s easier to spend more time outdoors. When choosing sunscreen, read the label before you buy. U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations require the labels to follow certain guidelines:

  • Choose a sunscreen with “broad-spectrum” protection. Sunscreens with this label protect against both UVA and UVB rays. All sunscreen products protect against UVB rays, which are the main cause of sunburn. But UVA rays also contribute to skin cancer and premature aging. Only products that pass a test can be labeled “broad spectrum.” Products that aren’t broad spectrum must carry a warning that they only protect against sunburn, not skin cancer or skin aging.
  • Choose a sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 30 or higher. The SPF number is the level of protection the sunscreen provides against UVB rays. Higher SPF numbers do mean more protection, but the higher you go, the smaller the difference becomes. SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%, SPF 50 sunscreens filter about 98%, and SPF 100 filter about 99%. No sunscreen protects you completely. The FDA requires any sunscreen with SPF below 15 to carry a warning that it only protects against sunburn, not skin cancer or skin aging.
  • “Water resistant” does not mean “waterproof.” No sunscreens are waterproof or “sweatproof,” and manufacturers are not allowed to claim that they are. If a product’s front label makes claims of being water resistant, it must specify whether it lasts for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating. For best results, reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours and even more often if you are swimming or sweating. Sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel yourself dry, so you will need to put more on.

This month, see how much you know about sun safety by taking the quiz below and then checking your answers on the worksheet attachment to the right, Also, visit the American Cancer Society’s Be Safe in the Sun2 page for additional information and tips to stay safe in the sun.

Test Your Sun Safety IQ!


  1. I can’t get skin cancer, because my normal routine (such as work, drive to work, hobbies, and vacations) doesn’t include any outdoor activities.
  2. My husband should use sunscreen at football games, even though he only goes (and gets a burn) once or twice a year.
  3. If I’m wearing sunscreen, I can stay in the sun as long as I want.
  4. A sunscreen labeled SPF 30 blocks twice as much UV radiation as one labeled SPF 15.
  5. It’s safe to let my children stay in the pool all day if they put on a t-shirt after a couple hours and reapply sunscreen to their faces, arms and legs.
  6. Water-resistant sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours or sooner, after sweating or swimming, and after towel drying.
  7. Getting a “base tan” at an indoor tanning salon is a good way to prevent sunburn when I go to the beach later this summer.
  8. The two most common (and painful) sunscreen mistakes are using too little and waiting too long to reapply.


  1. American Cancer Society Healthy Living Newsletter
  2. American Cancer Society Be Safe in the Sun