Northern Plains Comprehensive Cancer Control Program on Sun Safety and Skin Cancer. Photo from Great Plains Tribal Chairmen's Health Board

Protect the Skin You’re In

Northern Plains Comprehensive Cancer Control Program on Sun Safety and Skin Cancer

American Indians have the second highest rate of skin cancer.  There is a common misconception that individuals with darker skin are not at risk for getting skin cancer due to the pigment of their skin.  It is true that darker skin contains more melanin making it harder for UV rays to filter through the skin, but nonetheless there is still a risk for EVERYONE.  Skin cancer does not discriminate; young or old, male or female, fair skin or dark skin; it can happen to anyone in all walks of life.

What do we know?

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, more so, American Indian/Alaska Natives had the highest rates of getting melanoma of the skin in 2012 (CDC, 2012).  It only takes 15 minutes for the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays to damage your skin.  One of the easiest ways to prevent skin cancer is to limit your exposure to UV skin from the sun or artificial light such as tanning beds.  With the summer solstice fast approaching (June 20th) it is vital to think of protecting your skin against the harmful rays of the sun.  Protect your skin as you get ready for Pow-Wow’s, Rodeo’s, Basketball, Baseball, Softball, Golf, Fishing, Camping, Hiking, BBQ’s, Picnic’s and other outdoor activities.  Sun safety shouldn’t just be practiced in the summertime it should be year round, UV rays can penetrate your skin on bright and sunny days and also when it is cloudy or hazy.  Don’t forget that UV rays can reflect off of surfaces like water, sand, or cement, or snow.

So how can we protect our skin?  The CDC recommends the following:

  • If you are out in the sun, try and seek shade whenever possible.  More importantly try and stay out of the sun during those midday hours (between 10 AM and 4 PM)
  • Choose clothing that will cover your arms and legs if you are in the sun.
  • Wear a hat so that you can protect your face, head, ears, and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Apply sunscreen that has a minimum of SPF 15.

*Remember to have fun but don’t forget to take the proper precautions when you are in the sun!



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