Sun Safety: Just the Facts -Part I

Fact or Fiction - How would you answer these questions?

  1. A sun tan totally protects me from sun burn.
  2. Only UVB rays cause skin cancer.
  3. Tanning beds are better for you than the sun because they emit more UVA than UVB rays.
  4. SPF 30 provides twice the protection as a product with SPF 15.
  5. Clouds protect me from the sun’s rays.
  6. Only parts of your body that are exposed to the sun can develop skin cancer.
  7. A sun tan indicates healthy skin.
  8. Light colored clothing is better protection from the sun because it reflects more of the sun’s rays.
  9. The darker the lens the more UV the sunglasses block out.
  10. I am only at risk of skin cancer if there is a history of it in my family.

If you answered True to any of the above questions, it’s time to expand your knowledge about Sun Safety. Part 1 of this Sun Safety blog will review facts about the harmful radiation from the sun and the damage it can cause to us.

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main cause of skin damage in the world. Though it can have many sources, the majority of the UV radiation we are exposed to come from the sun.  Ultraviolet radiation can be broken up into different wave lengths – UVA, UVB, and UVC. Solar UV radiation that reaches earth is 95% UVA and 5% UVB.  In terms of skin damage, UVA causes tanning, skin aging, and skin cancer. UVB causes burning and skin cancer.

The World Health Organization considers UV radiation (whether solar or artificially generated) to be a carcinogen. Report on Carcinogens. UV radiation can be attributed to 90% of all of the skin cancer. 

Factoid:  Tanning beds can emit up to 12 times more UVA than the sun. Spending time in a tanning bed can put you at a greater risk for skin damage, including cancer, than an equivalent of amount of time spent in the sun.

A sun tan is your body’s attempt at protecting itself from UV radiation. It’s not an indication of healthy skin, but of sun damage. This damage can lead to pre-mature aging of the skin and even cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, “skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer in 2014.”, Skin Cancer Facts

Most basal and squamous cell cancers develop on sun-exposed areas of the skin, like the face, ear, neck, lips, and the backs of the hands. They rarely spread to other parts of the body and can be cured if found and treated early.  Skin Cancer: Basal and Squamous Cell.

The more dangerous type of skin cancer, melanoma, accounts for only a small percentage of skin cancer but is far more aggressive and causes most of the skin cancer related deaths. However, like the basal and squamous cell cancers, melanoma is almost always curable when it’s found in its very early stages. Unlike the others, melanoma can start in those areas of your body least exposed to UV radiation. Melanoma Skin Cancer 

Factoid:  Bob Marley, the reggae legend, died from melanoma that was discovered on his foot, but not before it had spread to other parts of his body and become incurable.

There are exposures both at and outside of work, so regardless of the exposure; take steps to understand your skin cancer risk factors and reduce your risk. Prevention starts with you: Examine often, identify early, treat immediately.

Click here to read Part 2 of Sun Safety: Fan of the Tan?

Want to know more about Sun Safety, MEMIC policyholders can watch the Sun Safety webinar on our Safety Director


A sunburnt back.


Sun Safety: Fan of the Tan? -Part II
Sun Safety: Got You Covered! -Part III