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Myths about sun safety

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May is National Melanoma Skin Care Awareness month. QualChoice explains the importance of taking care of our skin in the sun, and dives into some of the myths behind sun safety.

1. The sun is strongest when it’s hottest.

• The heat of the sun doesn't come from its skin-damaging UV rays.

• UV rays are strongest when the sun is highest in the sky. Try to stay out of the sun as much as possible from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the peak hours for UV radiation.

2. You can only burn in the middle of summer.

• UV rays are the greatest during the late spring and early summer in North America.

3. Putting sunscreen on once is enough.

• Even if it says once a day on the label, all sunscreens should be re-applied regularly. Some products rub, wash or sweat off more easily than others.

• Put at least 1 ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) on 15 minutes before you go outside. Reapply every 80 minutes when outside, and more often when swimming or sweating.

4. Sunscreen lasts forever.

• Some sunscreens include an expiration date — a date indicating when they're no longer effective. Discard sunscreen that is past its expiration date.

5. The higher the SPF, the better the protection

• The SPF on a sunscreen refers to the amount of protection the product offers from UVB rays or sunburns. Look for an SPF of at least 15.

• Higher SPFs don’t add much in terms of protection and might encourage you to spend longer in the sun inadvertently leading to more damage.

6. You don't need sunscreen on a cloudy day.

• Even on a cloudy day, UV radiation from the sun reaches the earth's surface. So make sure you use sunscreen every day.

7. The odd sunburn doesn’t make much difference.

• One or more severe, blistering sunburns can increase your risk of melanoma.

• The sun’s UV rays can damage unprotected skin in as little as 15 minutes. Yet it can take as long as 12 hours for skin to show the full effect of sun exposure.

8. Tanning Booths are a safer way to tan.

• There’s no such thing as a safe tan. UV radiation from tanning machines can cause skin cancers including melanoma.

• People who begin indoor tanning during adolescence or early adulthood have a higher risk of getting melanoma.

9. Tanned skin is a sign of good health.

• Tanned skin is damaged skin. Any change in the color of your skin after time outside—whether sunburn or suntan—indicates damage from UV rays.

10. I need to get as much sun as possible to get enough vitamin D.

• While it’s true that we all need a bit of sun to make vitamin D, for most people brief, casual exposure to the sun allows the body to make enough, so there’s no need to sunbathe or risk sunburn.

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