Skin cancer, a common and locally destructive cancerous (malignant) growth of the skin, is often caused due to ultraviolet (UV) light exposure among other reasons such as exposure to ionizing radiation and severe sunburns. During the summer time, many people love to feel the warmth of the sun, however this could prove to be risky for the skin if one does not take proper precautions. 

Sun exposure causes most of the skin changes, with its UV light damaging the fibers in the skin called elastin. The damage may not be noticed immediately but signs show with time.

Exposure to sun not only causes pre-cancerous (actinic keratosis) and cancerous (basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma) skin lesions — caused by loss of the skin's immune function, it also leads to benign tumors, fine and coarse wrinkles, freckles, sallowness — a yellow discoloration of the skin, telangiectasias — the dilation of small blood vessels under the skin, and elastosis — the destruction of the elastic tissue causing lines and wrinkles.

Read: How Does Sunscreen Work And What The Numbers Mean?

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the United States sees more new cases of skin cancer every year than the combined instances of cancer in the breast, prostate, lung and colon. The foundation says one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime.

There are different types of skin cancers — Actinic Keratoses (AK), Basal cell carcinoma (BCC), Squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), Melanoma. The most deadliest form of skin cancer is Melanoma while Basal cell carcinoma is the most common.

The Skin Cancer Foundation stated about 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers in the U.S. are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. Skin aging is also caused by the sun.

How to protect your skin from the sun

1. Use sunscreen every day, even if the weather is cloudy.

2. Apply at least one ounce of sunscreen (enough to fill a shot glass) at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outside. Lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 could also help from the damages caused by the sun's rays.

3. Be very careful in choosing the right sunscreen for your skin type. It is best to opt for a sunscreen that is water resistant and has a SPF factor of 30 or higher. Sunscreens with lower SPF could help from getting tanned or sunburned, but won’t protect against skin cancer.

4. Reapply sunscreen every two hours. Reapply every hour if you are swimming or sweating.  

5. Water and sand reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of getting a sunburn.

6. Choose to wear long-sleeved shirts or tops and long pants when out in the sun during summer. Dark clothing with tightly woven fabric blocks more sun than white or loosely woven fabrics.

7. Try to accessorize yourself with a hat that shades your face, neck, and ears. And wear a pair of sunglasses. 

8. Some types of medication such as antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, antifungals, blood pressure medication, and chemotherapies make the skin more sensitive to the sun.

9. Avoid intentional tanning or tanning beds.

10. Keep newborns out of the sun and do not use sunscreens on babies below the age of six months.

Read: Your Sunscreen May Be Killing Coral Reefs, Here's A List Of Eco-Friendly Products

Lesser known facts about sunscreens

1. The common sunscreen additive vitamin A may speed development of skin cancer.

2. European sunscreens provide better UVA protection.

3. Sunscreen doesn’t protect skin from all types of sun damage.

4. Some sunscreen ingredients disrupt hormones and cause skin allergies.

5. A sunscreen with an SPF factor of 15 blocks about 94 percent of the sun’s harmful rays. SPF 30 products block about 97 percent of such rays and SPF 45 sunscreen provides 98 percent protection.