Wellness Matters

8 Tips for Protecting Your Skin Against Damaging UV Rays

July 27, 2015

We’ve heard the advice from dermatologists for years. We can reduce our risk of skin cancer if we limit our exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays and stay away from indoor tanning beds.

But are we following that advice?

A recent Mayo Clinic study found that melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has increased eightfold since 1970. Even more alarming, melanoma causes an average of 9,400 deaths each year in the U.S., according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

Rates for two other types of skin cancers, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are also increasing. Both can be disfiguring, and some of these cancers can be fatal if they’re not diagnosed and treated early.

The habits we form today can affect our skin health for years and even decades down the road. Everyone needs to take precautions, regardless of age, skin type, ethnicity or where you live. Even a few sunburns can significantly increase your chances of skin cancer. Here are eight important reminders to help you have healthy skin throughout your lifetime:

  • Make sure to protect your skin year-round. Pack sunscreen for your ski trip as well as a weekend at the beach.
  • Don’t think you’re not at risk if your skin hasn’t turned pink from sun exposure. It can take up to 12 hours for the effects of the sun to show, but the UV rays can cause damage in just 15 minutes.
  • Go inside or find shade between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
  • Never use a tanning bed. The UV rays are just as dangerous as those from the sun.
  • A healthy tan is a myth. Any sun exposure that darkens your skin has already caused damage. 
  • Cover as much of your exposed skin as possible. Add a hat and sunglasses for added protection. 
  • Wear sunscreen with a minimum of SPF 30 protection. Apply it 20 minutes before you go out, and reapply every half hour. 
  • See your dermatologist once a year for a skin cancer exam. This is especially important if you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, or if you have fair skin, light eyes or light-colored hair.
Special precautions for children

For most people, half of their total lifetime exposure to the sun occurs during childhood. Infants should be kept out of the sun entirely, and young children should not be exposed to direct sunlight without taking the proper precautions. Encourage older kids to play in the shade, cover up as much as possible and use sunscreen on any exposed skin.

About the Author

Sean Hommel, DO

Sean Hommel, DO is a primary care physician at  Cone Health Primary Care at MedCenter Kernersville


  1. A sarcoma is a type of cancer that develops from certain tissues, like bone or muscle. Bone and soft tissue sarcomas are the main types of sarcoma. Soft tissue sarcomas can develop from soft tissues like fat, muscle, nerves, fibrous tissues, blood vessels, or deep skin tissues. The Soft Tissue Cancer Symptoms are the first sign of a sarcoma in an arm, leg, or torso may be a painless lump or swelling. Most lumps are not sarcoma. The most common soft-tissue lumps are lipomas, which are made of fat cells and are not cancer.