Originally Published: July 18, 2009 9:01 p.m.
Summer is a great time to have fun outdoors. It's also a time to take precautions to avoid sunburns, which can increase your risk of skin cancer in the future.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The two most common types, called basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, are highly curable. However, melanoma, the third most common skin cancer, is more dangerous, especially among young people. Most melanomas are caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light in sunlight or tanning beds.
Anyone can get skin cancer, but some things put you at higher risk, like:
Having a lighter natural skin color.
Having a personal or family history of skin cancer.
Exposure to the sun through work and play.
A history of sunburns early in life.
Skin that burns, freckles and reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
Blue or green eyes, and blonde or red hair.
To help prevent skin cancer while still having fun outdoors, regularly use sun-protective practices.
Seek shade, especially during midday hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.), when UV rays are strongest and do the most damage.
Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin. A long-sleeved shirt and long pants with a tight weave are best.
Get a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears and neck.
Grab sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.
Rub on sunscreen with sun protective factor (SPF) 15 or higher, and both UVA and UVB protection.
It is always wise to choose more than one way to cover up when you are in the sun. Use sunscreen and put on a shirt. Seek shade and grab your sunglasses. Wear a hat, but rub on sunscreen too. Combining these sun protective actions helps protect your skin from the sun's damaging UV rays.
And don't forget that UV rays reach you on cloudy and hazy days, as well as on bright and sunny days. UV rays will also reflect off most surfaces, including water, cement, sand and snow. Additionally, UV rays from artificial sources of light, like tanning beds, can cause skin cancer and should be avoided.