Cancer is the second leading cause of mortality in the world, next to heart disease, with one in six reported deaths attributed to it. According to the World Health Organization, some 9.6 million people died of the illness in 2018. The most common cancers are of the lung, breast, colorectal, prostate, skin and stomach.

Skin cancer alone logged 1.04 million cases in the said year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even lists it as the most common in the United States. Two of its types, squamous cell and basal cell carcinomas, are curable. However, they are expensive to treat and can leave patients looking disfigured. It is melanoma, the third type, that is most dangerous and deadly, caused by overexposure to UV light.

Sun Exposure at the Beach
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Pictured: Lia Calavro (L) and Jamie Sadler sit in the sun while laying on the beach on May 10, 2012 in Key Biscayne, Florida. Getty Images/Joe Raedle

Fortunately, there are ways to protect ourselves from skin cancer — but we have to make sure to reduce our exposure to the sun. In addition, we also have to be mindful of the types of products we apply on our skins as well as the food we eat.

1. Always use sunscreen. Never skimp on this product and be sure that whatever you slather on has at least SPF 30. Cloudy days are not an exception. In this day and age, sunscreen is essential even if you’re just thinking of staying indoors.

2. Avoid being exposed to the sun during midday. The worst time to be out in the sun is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. as this is the time the sun’s rays are at their peak.

3. Cover areas that are exposed. Bright and dark colors reflect UV radiation better compared to bleached or pastel fabrics. Prefer tighly woven materials to sheer clothing to limit your skin’s exposure to the sun.

4. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds. These appliances expose you to the same dangers as going under direct sunlight, perhaps even worse.

5. Stay in the shade as much as possible. Even if you’re in the outdoors, the best bet is to stay where its cool and shady. Wide brimmed hats and sunglasses also help a lot.

These rules apply to the young and old alike. By limiting your exposure to the sun, you give yourself a better chance of protection against skin cancer. In the U.S., one’s exposure to UV rays grows with age as our activities become more independent. According to SkinCancer.org, the average accumulated exposure will have reached 47 percent for the 19 to 40 age group. It will have reached 100 percent by 60 to 78 years old.