Aging & Health A to Z
Lifestyle & Management
The following are ways you can reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Reduce Sun Exposure
The most important thing to remember is to stay out of the sun as much as possible. Avoid the midday sun (10 AM to 2 PM), and try to stay in shady areas if you can. Be aware of your local UV index for the day. This is often mentioned on weather reports, in the local newspapers, or online at the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. A higher UV index means you have a greater chance for sunburn.
Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants or a long skirt, and a broad-brimmed (at least 2-3 inches) sunhat when you go out. Special “shade” hats are available that look like baseball caps with extra hanging fabric to protect the sides and back of your neck. Dark colors and a tightly woven fabric protect the best. Some new fabrics are specially designed to screen UV radiation and will list an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) value on the label. (Sunglasses will also protect your eyes from UV radiation which causes cataracts in older people.)
Use an abundant amount of good sunscreen (UPF of 30 or higher) and lip balm with sunscreen during the day. You should use sunscreen even when the weather is cloudy, especially if you will be out between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm. The higher the UPF value, the longer you can safely stay outdoors.
If you sweat profusely, or if you go swimming, reapply the sunscreen. In general, a reapplication every couple of hours in hot weather or after swimming is a good idea.
Avoid Tanning Salons and Sunlamps
These emit UVA and UVB wavelengths, and therefore can have the same damaging effects as direct sunlight.
Updated: March 2012
Posted: March 2012