We all love the sun and for good reason-without its warmth and light, we could not survive. However, too much of a good thing (in this case the sun’s rays) can also be harmful. This doesn’t mean you have to stay indoors, just use caution when you or your family are enjoying activities in the sun. The sun's ultraviolet radiation (UV) is powerful enough to damage your skin and eyes. Common effects of overexposure to the sun include tanning, sunburning, cataracts, wrinkling, and skin cancer.


Skin cancer is the most severe effect of overexposure and is the most common cancer in the United States with more than 3.5 million new cases diagnosed annually. The most common risk factors for developing skin cancer are your physical characteristics, your family history, and your environment. People with fair skin, red or blonde hair, green or light blue eyes, or freckle easily have an increased chance of developing skin cancer. If you have a family history of skin cancer, then you are at greater risk of developing it. Also, those who live, work, or play in locations with many dry and sunny days, at higher altitudes, or closer to the equator are at a greater risk for developing skin cancer. Most skin cancer cases are caused by UV overexposure; therefore, by reducing your amount of sun exposure you can help prevent skin cancer.


Preventing skin cancer and sun overexposure does not involve staying indoors all day, every day, but rather taking a few action steps to help care for you and your family. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has developed the following suggestions to help protect you and your family from overexposure to the sun.

1. Do Not Burn

Sunburns significantly increase a person’s risk of developing skin cancer in their lifetime, especially children. Wear sunscreen or protective clothing to avoid sunburn.


2. Avoid Sun Tanning and Tanning Beds

UV radiation from the sun and tanning beds causes wrinkling and skin cancer.


3. Liberally Apply Sunscreen

About one ounce of sunscreen should be applied to all exposed skin about 15 minutes before going outside. Look for sunscreen that has an SPF of at least 30 and provides a broad-spectrum protection from UVA and UVB rays. Even on cloudy days, reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming and sweating.


4. Check the UV Index

The UV index provides important information to help you plan your outdoor activities in order to prevent sun overexposure. This great source of information is issued daily by the National Weather Service and EPA.


5. Wear Protective Clothing

When possible, wear protective clothing, such as pants, sunglasses, long sleeved shirts, and wide-brimmed hats.


6. Use Extra Caution Near Water, Snow, and Sand

The sun’s damaging rays are reflected off of sand, water, and snow, which can increase your chance of sunburn.


7. Seek Shade

Seek shade when possible. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Items such as, wide-brimmed hats, umbrellas, and even trees provide great ways to stay out of the sun.


8. Get Vitamin D Safely

The sun is not the only way to receive your dose of Vitamin D. Seek Vitamin D safely through a diet that includes foods rich in Vitamin D, such as eggs, fish, ham, and mushrooms, and vitamin supplements.