US COPD Coalition

Protect Yourself from UV Radiation and Skin Cancer


Memorial Day marks the unofficial start of summer, and with the warmer weather comes increased risk of overexposure to the sun and other forms of ultraviolet (UV) radiation. As you prepare for the summer ahead, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) wants you to know about skin cancer and the risks and benefits of UV exposure.

According to the CDC, “Ultraviolet radiation is a form of non-ionizing radiation that is emitted by the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds. While it has some benefits for people, including the creation of Vitamin D, it also can cause health risks.” UV radiation can be beneficial because it aids in the production of Vitamin D, which helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus from our food, which in turn aids in the development of healthy bones. The World Health Organization recommends that individuals get 5-15 minutes of sunlight exposure two to three times per week.

Overexposure to UV radiation can cause skin cancer. The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell cancer and squamous cell cancer. Melanoma, the deadliest type of skin cancer, is most commonly caused by UV radiation exposure. It is also important to remember that UV radiation can reach you on cloudy days, so it is important to cover up and use sun block (at least SPF 15 or higher), even on days that are cloudy.

The CDC recommends the following to protect yourself from UV radiation and decrease your risk of skin cancer:

  • Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
  • Wear clothes that cover your arms and legs.
  • Consider options to protect your children.
  • Wear a wide brim hat to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Use sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) 15 or higher, for both UVA and UVB protection.
  • Avoid indoor tanning. Indoor tanning is particularly dangerous for younger users; people who begin indoor tanning during adolescence or early adulthood have a higher risk of developing melanoma.