Sun Safety IQ Test

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UnityPoint Health - John Stoddard Cancer Center

What's Your Sun Safety IQ?

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The American Cancer Society has produced a sun safety quiz. Are you sun-safe this summer? Find out below. 

1) True/False - I can’t get skin cancer, because my normal routine (such as drive to work, hobbies, and vacations) doesn’t include a lot of time outdoors. 

The Correct Answer is False

Dermatologists (skin doctors) say brief sun exposures all year round can add up to major damage for people with fair skin. And some of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can even pass through windows, so driving or even sitting by a window during peak sun hours, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., can expose your skin to damaging UV rays if the sun is shining directly on you. Everyday exposures are linked to squamous cell skin cancer. Although not as dangerous as melanoma, squamous cell skin cancer is far more common and the number of cases has been going up every year.

2) True/False - I should use sunscreen at football games, even though I only go (and get burned) once or twice a year. 

The Correct Answer is True

Many people think it's OK to get a sunburn now and then, but studies show that even occasional exposure to strong sunlight seems to increase the risk of the most deadly type of skin cancer, melanoma.

3) True/False - If I'm wearing sunscreen, I can stay in the sun as long as I want. 

The Correct Answer is False

It's not smart to broil in the sun for several hours, even if you are wearing sunscreen. These products don't provide total protection from ultraviolet (UV) rays. The American Cancer Society recommends that people seek shade and limit time in the sun at midday. Also, cover up with a shirt, wear a wide-brimmed hat, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen rated SPF 30 or higher, and reapply it about every 2 hours. Lip balm with sunscreen is a wise choice. And don't forget sunglasses to protect your eyes.

4) True/False - A sunscreen labeled SPF 15 blocks more UV radiation than one labeled SPF 30.  

The Correct Answer is False

The Sun Protection Factor (SPF) describes how well a sunscreen protects against UVB rays (although it says nothing about protection from UVA rays). SPF 15 sunscreens filter out about 93% of UVB rays, while SPF 30 sunscreens filter out about 97%. Be sure to choose a broad spectrum product that blocks both UVB and UVA light. It’s also important to use enough sunscreen and reapply it often, especially if you are sweating or swimming.

5) True/False - It's safe to let my children stay in the pool all day if they slip on a T-shirt after a couple hours and reapply sunscreen to their faces, arms, and legs.  

The Correct Answer is False

UV rays can easily go through a white cotton t-shirt, especially if it’s wet. Most wet, light-colored t-shirts only give about as much protection as an SPF 4 sunscreen – certainly not enough for all day and well below the minimum of SPF 30 recommended by the American Cancer Society. Better clothing choices include dark colors, fabrics with tight weaves, and specially treated garments and swimsuits. Sun-protective clothing can be found at sporting goods stores. Another great choice is moving into the shade during mid-day, when the sun’s rays are strongest. For babies younger than 6 months, shade, sun-protective clothing, and hats are best. As a last resort, pediatricians say that very small amounts of sunscreen can be used on small areas, such as the face and back of the hands.

6) How often do I need to reapply water-resistant sunscreen?

The Correct Answer is All of the above.

For best results, most sunscreens need to be reapplied about every 2 hours or sooner, but be sure to check the label for how long the protection will last. Sunscreens labeled “water resistant” are made to protect you from burning when you swim or sweat, but may only last for 40 minutes. Also, remember that sunscreen usually rubs off when you towel dry.

7) True/False - Getting a "base tan" at an indoor tanning salon is as good way to prevent sunburn when I go to the beach later this summer.

The Correct Answer is False.

Our experts say a "base tan" gives you very little protection against sunburn. Also, tanning itself injures the skin. What you don't see is UV damage to deeper layers, where it builds-up from every tan and burn you've ever had. There really is no such thing as a "safe tan."

8) What are some of the most common (and painful!) sunscreen mistakes?

The Correct Answer is All of the above.

Sunscreens with broad spectrum protection (against both UVA nd UVB rays) and SPF values of 30 or higher are recommended. About 1 ounce of sunscreen (a palm full) should be used to cover the arms, legs, neck and face of the average adult. For best results, sunscreens must be reapplied at least every 2 hours and even more often if you are swimming or sweating. Products labeled "waterproof" may provide protection for at least 80 minutes even when you are swimming or sweating.

To be safe as possible when in the sun, use a lot of sunscreen and use it often.

9) Now put it all together. You applied sunscreen at 12:00 noon for an afternoon of reading beside the pool. At 2:00 p.m., which one of the following actions would best protect your skin?

The Correct Answer is Move to the shade.

While all 3 actions may help, getting out of the mid-day sun is the best choice in this situation. Seeking shade is a key element in preventing skin cancer, especially between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., when the sun tends to be the hottest.

The clothes block very little UV radiation because they're made of cotton. This compares to a sunscreen rated SPF 4. Covering up is the right idea, but dark colors, tight weaves, and clothing labeled at least SPF 30 work better. (More and more outdoor clothing has an Ultraviolet Protection Factor or UPF rating.)

Sunscreen should not be used to extend your time in intense sunlight. Sunscreen is an important part of protecting your skin, but it does not provide total protection. To get the most from sunscreen, choose products of SPF 30 or higher that block both UVA and UVB rays, reapply at least every 2 hours, and use at least 1 ounce or a palm full for an adult.