The call of the beach is hard to ignore on sunny summer days. Yet many teens and young adults do not follow protection tips when they hit the sand. They remain the most difficult age group to convince that ultraviolet (UV) rays, which come from the sun and indoor tanning venues, can cause cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, and melanoma is the most deadly type. But according to recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Cancer Institute, teens and young adults aren’t protecting themselves from UV radiation.
- Half of adults younger than age 30 report having been sunburned. Even one blistering burn can double the risk of melanoma.
- The majority of high school students say they rarely or never use sunscreen when outside in the sun for more than one hour.
- Indoor tanning is common among young adults, and rates of indoor tanning were especially high among women ages 18-21. Indoor tanning before age 35 increases the risk of melanoma by 75 percent.
- Seek shade and take a break from the sun, especially during midday hours (10 a.m. – 4 p.m.).
- Protect your eyes. Sunglasses safeguard your eyes from UVA and UVB rays and can reduce the risk of developing cataracts and ocular melanoma.
- Use sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Look for sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection, or “broad spectrum coverage,” as the FDA will soon call it. If it normally takes you 10 minutes in the sun to burn, an SPF 30 sunscreen protects you for 300 minutes. An SPF 100 should, in theory, provide 1,000 minutes of coverage.
- Check the expiration date. Sunscreens expire every three years or on the date listed on the label. A good reminder: label your purchase date on the bottle and throw out anything with an unusual color or consistency.
- Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days. About 80 percent of ultraviolet radiation reaches the earth through clouds.
- If you do want to go to the beach on a sunny day, go in the late afternoon (and don’t forget sunscreen).
- Apply sunscreen generously and often. Be sure to reapply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating. As a general rule, use at least one shot glass worth of sunscreen(approximately one ounce) to cover all exposed areas on your body.
- Cover up. Wear a baseball cap or wide-brimmed hat when lounging near the water. SPF protected clothing can be easier than constantly reapplying sunscreen.
- Avoid indoor tanning. Exposure to UV radiation from indoor tanning equipment is the most important preventable risk factor for skin cancer.
As with many forms of cancer, melanoma is often misunderstood. Learn more about what melanoma is and isn’t.