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Protecting your skin in the summer

Spring and Summer mean more fun outdoor activities. And while more time spent outdoors this can improve your mental health and wellbeing, it can also increase your exposure to the sun and increase your risk of skin cancer. Idaho has one of the highest rates of melanoma in the country, the deadliest form of skin cancer, with about 30 cases per 100,000 people. Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun (and even from tanning beds) for long periods of time can increase your risk of skin cancer, premature aging and eye damage. But by using the right tools to protect your skin, you can enjoy summer more safely.

woman at the beach

Fast facts about skin cancer

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States – it’s also the most preventable. You can find it early by examining your skin yourself or going to a dermatologist. The most common signs of skin cancer are changes on your skin, such as a sore that doesn’t heal, moles that change in appearance, or a new growth. When found early, skin cancer is highly treatable.

Here are a few facts about skin cancer from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • It only takes about 15 minutes before unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s UV rays.
  • Anyone can get skin cancer, but certain characteristics put you at higher risk, like lighter natural skin color, blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, or a family history of skin cancer.

UV rays, not heat, are what cause damage. Even if it’s cool and cloudy, you still need protection from UV rays. 

Simple steps for sun safety

Here are a few things you can do to protect your skin this summer and reduce your risk of skin cancer.

Use sunscreen

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Broad-spectrum sunscreens protect against both UVA and UVB rays, offering better protection against early aging and wrinkles than a UVB-only sunscreen. Apply sunscreen to your face and body 15 minutes before going out in the sun and make sure it’s completely absorbed. Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours, especially after swimming, sweating or using a towel.

Wear protective clothing

Wearing long sleeves or sun-protective clothing can help you avoid harmful rays from the sun, too. Sun-protective clothing lists an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) to show how much UVA and UVB light they block. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends clothing with a UPF of 30 or higher for good sun protection. The foundation has more information about how clothing can protect you.

Other summer safety tips

Here are some other tips from the American Cancer Society on summer sun safety:

  • Stay out of the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when it's the most intense.
  • Wear loose-fitting clothing for breathability and to avoid getting too hot.
  • Wear a hat to cover your scalp and ears and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.
  • Limit outdoor activity to cooler hours of the day, such as the morning or evening.

By keeping your skin protected from harmful UV rays, you can lower your risk of skin cancer and enjoy your summers more.

Have fun in the sun

The longer and warmer days of summer may make you want to be outside more. Have fun outdoors barbecuing in the yard, walking, swimming or watching a ballgame, but make sure you protect your skin from the sun. And don’t forget to keep protecting your skin all year long!

See your doctor

Scheduling routine check ups with your doctor or dermatologist can help you make sure your skin stays healthy. Need to find a doctor? Blue Cross of Idaho members can log in to their accounts select Find Care to search for an in-network doctor.

Written by: Blue Cross of Idaho

Posted: July 5, 2023

Updated: July 1, 2024