Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light from the sun is the most serious environmental risk factor for skin and lip cancer. Even a few serious sunburns can double your lifetime risk of cancer.
Serious sunburns, especially during childhood and adolescence, can increase the chances of developing malignant melanoma, one of the most serious and deadly forms of skin cancer. Unprotected skin can be harmed by UV rays in as little as 15 minutes, yet it can take up to 12 hours for skin to show the full effects of sun exposure.
Adults of all ages – and especially children – should take steps against sun exposure from April through September:
- Use sunscreen rated SPF-30 or higher with both UVA and UVB protection. Remember that last year's sunscreen may not still be effective — check the expiration date on the packaging.
- Seek shade, especially during midday when the sun's rays are strongest and do the most damage. Avoid direct exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., and seek shade under an umbrella or tree.
- Cover up with clothing to protect exposed skin. Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and long pants made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection. Light clothing is not a substitute for sunscreen: a T-shirt only has an SPF of about 4.
- Get a hat with a wide brim to shade the face, head, ears, and neck. UV rays can reach anyone on cloudy and hazy days as well as bright and sunny days
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays as possible. Sunglasses protect both the eyes and tender skin around the eyes from sun exposure.
Protection against sun and heat is even more important for older Mississippians. Drink plenty of fluids, and if your home doesn't stay cool enough, be sure to spend time in air-conditioned places in the heat of the day.