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Quiz: How Much Do You Know About Sun Safety?

  • Paige Bierma, M.A.
  • Posted March 11, 2013

Health experts have warned for years that too much sun exposure can cause skin cancer, age spots, and wrinkles. With the rising rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, experts caution against sunbathing without protection against ultraviolet rays. But how much do you really know about protecting yourself and your family from the harmful effects of the sun? Take our quiz to find out how much you know about sun safety.

1. The best way to protect your skin if you have to be outside on a sunny day is:

a. Wear an SPF 15 sunscreen (or greater) and re-apply every two hours

b. Wear a hat

c. Wear a long-sleeved shirt and pants

d. Wear sunglasses

e. All of the above

2. If I only get a sunburn once or twice a year, I don't need to worry about skin cancer.

True

False

3. The safest way to get a good tan is:

a. Slowly, using an SPF 30 sunscreen and avoiding midday sun

b. Laying out for 30 minutes before applying sunscreen

c. A tanning booth

d. There is no risk-free way to get a tan.

4. A good application of sunscreen will last all day.

True

False

5. Which provides more protection from the sun?

a. A dark cotton shirt

b. SPF 15 sunscreen

c. A white T-shirt

d. A wet T-shirt

6. At what age can I start putting sunscreen on my child?

a. 1 month

b. 6 months

c. 1 year

d. 5 years

7. When should sunscreen be applied?

a. Right before you go outside

b. After you get your beach towel laid out and find an attractive person to do the honor

c. 30 minutes before you go outside

d. An hour after you've been out, depending on your skin type

8. It's good to avoid the sun entirely.

True

False

Answers

1. The best way to protect your skin if you have to be outside on a sunny day is :

The correct answer is: e. All of the above

Many people mistakenly believe that sunscreen will allow you to stay out in the sun safely for as long as you want. The truth is, none of these products alone can provide 100 percent protection from ultraviolet rays. The American Cancer Society recommends that people limit their time in the sun at midday as much as possible. If you have to be out in the sun, seek shade periodically, wear a wide-brimmed hat to help protect your face, and cover up with a lightweight long-sleeved shirt or pants. Strong sunlight can also damage your eyes and the tender skin around them, and has been associated with macular degeneration and cataracts. Choose sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of ultraviolet radiation, and that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. (Wraparound glasses provide the best protection.) And last, but not least: Protect your lips. Use a lip balm with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 15 to protect your kiss.

2. If I only get a sunburn once or twice a year, I don't need to worry about skin cancer.

The correct answer is: False

Although many people think it's all right to get a sunburn once in a while, studies show that even occasional over-exposure to the sun's UV rays seems to increase the risk of the most serious type of skin cancer, melanoma. Play it safe and protect yourself, even if you only go to the beach once a year!

3. The safest way to get a good tan:

The correct answer is: d. There is no risk-free way to get a tan.

Although some of us have been taught that a tan gives the appearance of vibrancy and health, the truth is that all tans are a form of skin damage. If you have to be outside in the sun for more than a few minutes, take measures to protect your skin. Do NOT lie out for 30 minutes before applying sunscreen, even if you are naturally dark-skinned and tend not to burn. Surprisingly enough, the lamps and tanning beds used in salons emit UV rays that are just as damaging as the real thing. Don't listen to claims that the lamps only emit "safe" or UVA rays -- scientists now know that both kinds of UV rays cause skin damage and cancer.

4. A good application of sunscreen will last all day.

The correct answer is: False

Ultraviolet rays from the sun are made of UVA and UVB light. It's important to protect yourself from the damage both kinds of light can cause. The Sunburn Protection Factor (SPF) on sunscreen labels refer to the amount of protection a product has against UVB light. The SPF tells you how much longer than normal you would be able to stay in the sun without burning. For example, if you are fair-skinned and would normally start burning within five minutes of being in the sun, an SPF 15 sunscreen would theoretically allow you to stay in the sun for 15 times as long, or for an hour and 15 minutes before you began to burn (five minutes multiplied by 15). Practically speaking, everyone needs to use at least an SPF 15 and reapply it every two hours. You should also buy a sunscreen that protects against a "broad spectrum" of harmful rays from the sun -- meaning both UVA and UVB. And finally, be sure to check the expiration date. Sunscreens without an expiration date shouldn't be used for longer than three years.

5. Which provides more protection from the sun?

The correct answer is: a. A dark cotton shirt

Tightly woven, darker-colored fabrics provide more protection than sunscreen or a T-shirt. Most T-shirts, in fact, provide only about the equivalent of SPF 4 protection, and even less than that if they are wet. Too hot for long sleeves? Try checking out some of the companies today that specialize in making clothing out of lightweight materials made especially to keep out the sun.

6. At what age can I start putting sunscreen on my child?

The correct answer is: b. 6 months

Because of the chemicals used in sunscreen lotions, most pediatricians recommend not using sunscreen on babies younger than six months old. Instead, keep your baby in the shade and use protective clothing and hats. If that's not possible, ask your pediatrician for advice. Some doctors recommend placing a small amount of certain sunscreens on babies' faces or the backs of their hands.

7. When should sunscreen be applied?

The correct answer is: c. 30 minutes before you go outside.

For maximum protection, sunscreens should be applied 30 minutes before exposure so that the chemicals in the lotion have a chance to absorb into your skin. Sunscreen works by interacting with the skin to absorb, reflect or scatter the sun's UV rays. Waiting until you've found the right person to apply it could result in some pretty unattractive results, including a nasty burn, premature aging, and skin cancer. Remember to slather the sunscreen on generously: adults need an ounce of sunscreen to cover their legs, arms, hands, neck, face and ears. And don't forget to reapply at least every two hours.

8. It's good to avoid the sun entirely.

The correct answer is: False

Although sun can cause skin damage, some daily sunlight without sun protection early in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or in the late afternoon is important for proper absorption of vitamin D. Experts, however, disagree on how much. Fair-skinned people and those who live in the far north of the United States should work in about 15 minutes of sunlight each day. But in areas where it's mostly cloudy, or if you're dark-skinned, you may need more sunlight. Talk with your doctor -- you may also benefit from a vitamin D supplement.

References

Dangers of Artificial Tanning. American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/

Protect Your Skin From UV American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/

What's Your Sun-Safety IQ? American Cancer Society. http://www.cancer.org/

Choose Your Cover Skin Cancer Prevention Campaign: Questions & Answers Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ChooseYourCover/qanda.htm

Sun Safety: Protect the Skin You're In. FDA & You. Spring/Summer 2004. Food and Drug Administration.

"The Big D", Food & Fitness Advisor (Weill Medical College of Cornell University), Jan 2004, Vol 7, No. 1.

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