Sun, Cancer and Vitamin D: Top 5 Myths and Facts

sunscreen on beach

It’s summer – time to be outdoors for picnics, pool time and family vacations. You can get a healthy physical activity boost with swimming, gardening, hiking and playing outdoor games with friends and family. And soaking up a little sun can boost your vitamin D, but don't forget to keep your skin safe from too much sun. For cancer prevention, that’s a top priority.

Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays is a cause of skin cancer, the most common cancer in the US. This year, there will be an estimated 87,000 new cases of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. But you can lower your risk by being prepared and taking precautions when you’re outside.

Here we bust some of the most common myths about sun exposure and protection.

MYTH: It’s important to spend plenty of time in the sun to get enough vitamin D.
FACT: Your skin does make vitamin D when exposed to the sun’s rays, but you don't need to spend a long time outside. How long depends on several factors, including how dark your skin is and the time of day. Most people will make enough vitamin D by getting between 5 - 30 minutes of sun twice a week without sunscreen, according to the National Library of Medicine. After just a few minutes, it’s recommended that you apply sunscreen.

MYTH: If it’s cloudy outside, I don’t need sunscreen.
FACT: You still get sun exposure on cloudy days. The UV rays can penetrate some clouds, so the sun can damage your skin and you can even get a sunburn in cloudy, cool weather. Use sunscreen (at least SPF 15 or higher) even when the sun is hidden by clouds.

MYTH: My makeup has sunscreen, so I don’t need to put any more on my face.
FACT: Makeup with sunscreen that’s at least SPF 15 is helpful, but you do need to reapply sunscreen after a couple of hours in the sun and after swimming or sweating. Same for lip balm with sunscreen.

MYTH: I’ll only be outside for an hour so I don’t need to worry about getting too much sun.
FACT: The sun’s rays can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes, so plan ahead and take protective steps before you go outside, even if for a short time.

MYTH: I’m wearing a baseball cap and a t-shirt so I’ll be okay.
FACT: A baseball cap doesn’t protect your ears and neck, so opt for a wide-brimmed hat or wear clothing that covers those areas. A t-shirt has an SPF rating lower than 15, so it’s safest to use other types of protection as well.
sun protection infographic

Click to enlarge

Source: US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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