One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. It’s a sobering statistic, but it doesn’t mean you can’t rack up your steps outside. Wearing sunscreen can help protect against the harmful effects of the sun and slash your risk.
The Sun and Your Skin
A quick science lesson: Sunlight is made up of a spectrum of light waves. Some of those waves are harmless, but others can hurt. Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation can burn the surface of your skin, and ultraviolet A (UVA) can go deep, causing cellular damage that can lead to skin cancer
Any amount of sun exposure can be dangerous—86 percent of melanoma and 90 percent of non-melanoma skin cancers have been linked to ultraviolet radiation. And because damage is cumulative, the more sun exposure you get during your life, the higher your chances of developing cancer.
That’s why it’s important to stay covered whenever you’re outside. “I like to tell my patients, ‘If it’s daylight, UV rays are hitting you,’’ says Brooke A. Jackson, MD, board-certified dermatologist and director of Skin Wellness Dermatology Associates in Durham, NC. Clouds and shade do offer some protection, but 40 percent of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation can still reach the earth on an overcast day. If it’s light enough outside for you to see, the sun can see you, too.