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Sun and Skin Safety

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer. People of all ethnicities can develop skin cancer because everyone has sun exposure. At Mays Cancer Center, home to UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, we work to reduce skin cancer’s impact in South Texas.

You can take steps today to protect your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation, a major cause of skin cancer. Learn sun and skin safety tips to lower your risk.

What you need to know about sun and skin safety

  • UV radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. You are exposed to UV rays every time you go outside. You can’t feel radiation, but even on cloudy days, UV rays accumulate and damage the skin’s DNA over time. This damage can cause skin cells to mutate (change) and grow abnormally, leading to skin cancer.
  • Skin cancer can affect people of all ages and skin tones. Many types of skin cancer are highly curable.
  • Skin damage from UV exposure builds up over time. The level of damage your body experiences depends on how much time you spend in the sun and what protective measures you take.
  • Living closer to the equator (as we do in sunny South Texas) can increase your UV radiation exposure. This fact makes it even more important to protect your skin daily.
  • Remember: There is no such thing as a healthy tan. A tan (skin that is darker than its natural state) is your body’s way of trying to protect itself after being exposed to too much radiation. A tan should be a warning sign to you to start protecting your skin with sunscreen or protective clothing.
  • Tanning beds also emit UV radiation. Doctors identify indoor tanning as well as tanning from the sun as dangerous practices that greatly increase your risk of skin cancer. Avoiding tanning protects your long-term health.
  • The dermatology experts at Mays Cancer Center can partner with you to protect your health. We’ll recommend a personalized skin cancer screening plan based on your risk and needs. Learn more about our skin cancer program.

Schedule your skin cancer screening today

To get more information about our services or schedule a skin cancer screening with one of our dermatologists, contact us at 210-450-1000.

Sun and skin safety tips

You can protect your skin from damaging UV rays by following these steps:

  • Avoid the sun’s peak hours: The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4p.m. Stay indoors or in the shade during these hours whenever possible.
  • Learn the SPF basics: The sun protection factor (SPF) number measures how long sunscreen will protect you from UV rays. We recommend everyone (except babies 6 months and younger) apply sunscreen and lip balm with at least SPF 30 or wear sun protective clothing labeled as UPF 50+ or hats. Our doctors can offer personalized sunscreen recommendations tailored to your needs.
  • Use sunscreen every day: UV rays can cause skin damage on bright or cloudy days. Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least 30 SPF daily, 30 minutes before you plan to be outside. Reapply after two hours (or sooner if you’re swimming or exercising).
  • Wear sun-safe gear: Wear clothing that covers your skin whenever possible. It is best to look for sun protective clothing that has UPF 50+ labeling on it. You can find these items online or at sporting good stores. Sun hats (including hats with at least a 4-inch-wide brim) can protect your face and neck. Look for sunglasses that have UVA and UVB protection to safeguard your eyes outside.
  • Know when to show caution: Do not engage in indoor or outdoor tanning. Be extra careful of your skin in certain areas. Water and sand can reflect sunlight, which magnifies how UV radiation affects your skin.

Skin cancer risk factors

A risk factor is anything that increases your chances of developing cancer. Having one or more risk factors does not mean you will get cancer. Our doctors use this information when deciding how often you may benefit from skin cancer screening.

Skin cancer risk factors include:

  • Extended hours outside over a long period of time
  • Use of indoor tanning beds
  • At least one severe (blistering) sunburn
  • Certain characteristics, including:
  • Light skin
  • Many freckles or moles
  • Light (blue or green) eyes
  • Red or blond hair
  • History of skin cancer
  • One family member within two degrees of closeness (such as your aunt or grandparent) with melanoma

Our board-certified dermatologists provide expert skin evaluations to detect skin cancer with precision. We can teach you how to perform skin self-exams at home, helping you spot potential warning signs of skin cancer. Find out more about our skin cancer program.