Sun exposure during cancer treatment

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Your skin is extra sensitive to the sun during chemotherapy and radiation treatment. Find out how you can protect yourself from the sun both during treatment and after.

Key points

  • Spending a lot of time in the sun can increase your risk for skin cancer in the future, especially if you have already had cancer.
  • You can reduce your risk of skin cancer by never using tanning beds, applying a genours amount of sunscreen every day of the year, covering up as much as possible outdoors, and wearing sunglasses.
  • The UV index tells you how much UV light will reach the ground when the sun is high; a higher number means greater UV exposure.

Spending a lot of time in the sun increases your risk of getting skin cancer in the future. This is especially true if you’ve had cancer. When you’re having chemotherapy or radiation, your skin is extra light-sensitive!

Protect yourself!

  • Never use tanning beds! A tan is not worth the terrible damage they do to your health.
  • Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 30 every day, even in the winter. Your sunscreen should be broad spectrum, meaning it protects against UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply a generous amount of sunscreen to any exposed areas that clothing does not cover, such as your face, neck, ears and hands. Reapply at least every two hours.
  • Try a sunscreen that’s mixed in a face cream, but if you’re having radiation, remember to ask your nurse or doctor about what’s ok to put on your skin.
  • Don’t forget your lips! Get a lip balm with SPF in it.
  • The best protection is covering up. Wear hats, long sleeves and pants made of a light material.
  • Don’t forget your eyes! Wear sunglasses.
  • Be extra careful if you have fair skin and hair.
  • Understand and check the UV index (see below). This will tell you which days you should spend in the shade. During the spring and summer, it’s always a good idea to spend the hours between 11 am and 3 pm out of the sun.
  • Remember: You can get a sunburn on cloudy days too!

What is the UV index?

The UV index is a number between 0 and 10+. It tells you how much UV light (the light that damages your skin and causes cancer) will reach the earth when the sun is high. A higher number means more UV. If the UV index is 3 or higher, protect yourself.

Should I never go in the sun?

We’re not saying you should never ever go out in the sun. But you need to find a balance between what you want now and what you’ll want in the future. The bottom line is that sun damages skin. You’ll have the same skin for the rest of your life. Damage you do now will affect your health and the way you look later.

Last updated: September 3rd 2019