Protect your skin all summer long

"Don't forget your sunscreen!"

Cassie Smith

Growing up in North Carolina, my family went to the beach often. I can still hear my mom yelling as I ran toward the ocean, “Don’t forget your sunscreen! You don’t want to burn!” But looking back, I’m not sure I ever heard my mom mention that sunscreen helps reduce our risk of skin cancer.

Don’t be afraid to remind your family and friends why they need to wear sunscreen. It’s not just about the days of discomfort that come with sunburns; protecting your skin before you turn 18 can reduce your risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 78 percent.

Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among men and women in the United States. An estimated 91,270 Americans are expected to be diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer, this year. So as nagging as your mother’s words (or yours to your family) might sound, remember that it’s for cancer prevention.

Follow these tips to ensure you and your family and friends stay sun safe this Memorial Day weekend and the rest of the year.

  • Choose a broad spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30.
  • Apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading outdoors.
  • Use about an ounce of sunscreen (think of a shot glass), the amount the American Academy of Dermatology recommends to cover the average body.
  • Reapply your sunscreen every two hours or if you sweat or get wet. A higher SPF does not mean that you need to reapply less frequently.
  • Don’t forget your lips, eyes and scalp. Make sure you use a lip balm that contains SPF, wear sunglasses with UV protection and wear a hat or apply sunscreen to your scalp.
  • Avoid the sun when it’s hottest—between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you can get your family to the beach in the morning (bonus: less crowded!) or plan your cookout for later in the day, you’ll avoid the worst of the sun’s rays.
  • Indoor tanning is not a safe alternative.

Even if you follow all these tips, you can still be at risk for skin cancer. Pay attention to any changes to your skin and schedule annual skin checks. Learn more about skin cancer to stay safe in the sun this season!