June is here — and that means the Summer Solstice is only a few weeks away. As Mother Nature bestows more hours of daylight, people are expected to spend extra time outdoors. But before you head out to enjoy an outdoor activity like bike riding or running, you need to take good care of your skin.

While the sun helps the body to synthesize vitamin D, which is crucial for bone strength and immunity, too much sun exposure over time can have devastating effects on our skin if we don’t take the proper precautions. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) light can cause wrinkles, age spots, and skin cancer.

When it comes to skin cancer, data show that 20 percent of Americans will develop it in their lifetime. In the U.S., skin cancer is by far the most common cancer. While certain types of skin cancer are highly curable, an early diagnosis is key. There are three common types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Of these three, melanoma is the deadliest if it isn’t caught early. In the United States, 3.5 million people will develop basal and squamous cell cancer and 73,870 people will be diagnosed this year with melanoma.

So, what can you do to protect your skin? Skin protection awareness may be a priority during the spring and summer months; however, it’s necessary to protect your skin from ultraviolet light year-round. Because even when there’s overcast weather or snow, UV light can penetrate through the clouds or reflect against the snow on the ground to damage your skin.

Follow these tips to protect your skin while having fun in the sun:

  • Find Shade: Use an umbrella at the beach, and lie down at the park under the shade of a tree.
  • Cover up: Wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and clothes that are made of tightly woven fabric to reduce your skin’s exposure to the sun’s harmful rays.
  • Slather it up: UV light can cause damage to your skin within minutes of being outside. Before you leave your home be sure to add sunscreen protection with an SPF of 15 or higher. You may notice different UV labels on SPF products. I suggest you go with both UVA and UVB protection: UVA rays reach the earth’s surface and can penetrate skin layers to cause cancer. UVB rays are mostly absorbed by the ozone layer; however, the limited amount that does reach the earth’s surface is still damaging to your skin.
  • Avoid Tanning Beds: This may seem like a fast, easy way to achieve sun-kissed skin. But the trade-off of getting that island getaway glow isn’t worth it because tanning beds compose more than 419,000 skin cancer cases every year.
  • Check your skin: Look for changes such as skin discoloration, scaly skin, or new growths (e.g. moles). And for those hard-to-see places like your back or scalp, get someone else to check your skin. If you notice a change in the appearance of your skin, ask your physician to take a closer look. Often times, it’s just normal signs of skin aging; other times, it is cancer.

This summer enjoy the sunshine and warm weather with a stroll in the park or a relaxing day at the beach — just remember to take good care of your skin while you do.

American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2015.http://www.cancer.org/acs/groups/content/@editorial/documents/document/acspc-044552.pdf. Accessed May 30, 2015.
Wehner M, Chren M-M, Nameth D, et al. International prevalence of indoor tanning: a systematic review and meta-analysis. JAMA Dermatol 2014; 150(4):390-400. Doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2013.6896.