Protect Yourself and Your Family When You're Out in the Sun.
Did you know that skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States? Every year there are more and more new cases of skin cancer. In fact, more than one million new cases are diagnosed each year. In Anne Arundel County, the incidence of melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, is 50% higher than the rest of Maryland. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. While we cannot completly avoid the sun if we work outdoors or want to enjoy outdoor activities, we can try to better protect ourselves from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
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Avoid sun midday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when UV rays are strongest.
Cover up when outside in sunlight by wearing a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and full-length pants. Wear clothes made with sun-protective fabrics, which differ from typical summer fabrics. Sun-protective fabrics usually have a tighter weave or knit, and they are darker in color. They generally have a label listing the garment's Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF).
Seek shade on sunny days. Use an umbrella at the beach or pool and take breaks under a tree or other shaded area.
Be aware that water, snow, concrete and sand reflect sunlight, making UV exposure more intense.
Do not use tanning beds or sunlamps. Click here for facts about tanning and stories from young women who used tanning beds.
Use water resistant broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher 15-30 minutes before going outside daily, even on cloudy days. Remember to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours and right after swimming, sweating or toweling off. Use a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. Click here for an easy-to-use guide on new sunscreen regulations.
In the winter, use sunscreen on any exposed skin, particularly the face. Be extra cautious if you are skiing or around snow. Snow reflects sunlight, resulting in intense UV rays.
Remember, no sunscreen totally blocks the sun's rays. Even people wearing high SPF sunscreens get some exposure. However, sunscreen is one of the most effective sun protection methods available. For more information on sun safety, click here.
Wear sunglasses with 100 percent UVA and UVB protection. Make sure prescription glasses have UV protection too. For a buying guide for children's sunglasses, click here.
What is SPF?
Sun Protective Factor (SPF) is a measure of a sunscreen's ability to prevent UVB from damaging the skin. If it takes 20 minutes for your unprotected skin to start turning red, using an SPF 30 sunscreen theoretically prevents reddening 30 times longer — about five hours.
For more information on SPF and how it works, click here.
Sunscreen and Infants
Sunscreens may irritate a baby's skin. Infants under 6 months should not wear sunscreen. Infants should always stay in the shade and wear protective clothing that covers their entire body, including hats and sunglasses when outdoors. An infant's developing eyes are vulnerable to sunlight.
For more information on sun protection for infants, click here.
Sun exposure is the primary cause of skin cancer. People who work outside (e.g., construction, landscaping, fishery, forestry) are at a higher risk. While you cannot stay out of the sun if you work outdoors, you can protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Follow these prevention tips to stay safe in the sun:
Move outside jobs, when possible, inside or to a shady location. Set up a temporary shelter such as a pop-up canopy tent or use the shadows of trees and buildings for protection.
Move to a shady spot for lunch and breaks.
Wear protective clothing and cover your skin. Long-sleeved, closely woven shirts and long trousers provide the best protection.
For more information on outdoor workers, click here.
People of Color and Skin Cancer
Caucasians are known to be the primary victims of skin cancer. However, everyone, regardless of skin color, can get skin cancer. Unfortunately, many patients are under the impression that non-Caucasian people are immune to this disease. In fact, the overall survival rate for melanoma is only 77% for African Americans, versus 91% for Caucasians. People of color are more likely to get skin cancer under the fingernails or toenails, on the palms of the hands or on the soles of the feet.
For more information about skin cancer and skin of color, click here.
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
People with certain risks factors are more likely than others to develop skin cancer. There are some risks that you should be aware of for you and your family that you can control. It is important to remember that everyone is at risk for skin cancer regardless of race.
Risk Factors You Can Control
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation exposure is the main factor that causes skin cancer. UV radiation is the main risk factor that causes skin cancer. UV radiation comes from the sun, sunlamps and tanning beds. A person's risk of skin cancer is related to a lifetime exposure to UV radiation.
A few bad sunburns can increase a child’s risk for skin cancer later in life.
Skin damage from UV exposure increases the risk for skin cancer. Skin damage happens when there is any change to the color in the skin, including tanning and burning.
UV radiation is also present in cold weather or on a cloudy day.
Water, snow, sand and concrete can increase the exposure from reflected rays.
Risk Factors You Cannot Change
Personal past history of skin cancer
Family history of skin cancer
Light-colored hair and eyes
Men are more likely to have skin cancer than women.
For a complete list of skin cancer risk factors, click here.
Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancers are divided into nonmelanomas and melanomas.
Nonmelanomas (usually basal cell and squamous cell cancers) are the most common cancers of the skin, but they are also the easiest to treat if found in time. These cancers are more common in older people.
Melanoma is less common than basal cell and squamous cell skin cancers, but it is far more serious. Melanoma is almost always curable in its early stages; however, if not caught early, it can spread to other parts of the body.
Watch “Dear 16-Year-Old Me” for real stories about people suffering from skin cancer.
Warning Signs of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is a serious disease that can cause scarring and even death. Inspect your skin often (at least every three months) and take note of all the spots on your body, from moles to freckles to age spots. If you see any kind of change on one of your spots or you see any of these warning signs, contact your health care provider:
A new growth (such as moles, birthmarks or spots)
Sudden or progressive change in a mole, freckle or birthmark's appearance
A sore that doesn't heal
A mole, bump or nodule that is scary, lumpy, crusting or bleeding, or takes on an irregular shape
Swelling, irritation, redness or spread of color into the skin near a mole, birthmark or freckle
Dark, freckle-like areas under a fingernail or toenail
Nonmelanoma cancers usually affect parts of the body that get the most sun, like forehead, nose or ears; but, melanomas can be anywhere on the body, even under the nails or between toes.
How to Do a Skin Self-Exam
It is important to check your skin regularly for signs of skin cancer. For more information on what to look for and screenings, click here.