If there’s one thing Texans know about, it’s the heat of the summer. Growing up, the saying you could fry an egg on the sidewalk was more than words – it was a neighborhood competition. While we are well acquainted with triple-digit temperatures, we don’t always take sun safety seriously.

Experts tell us that COVID-19 exposure decreases when we’re outdoors, as the virus has the ability to dissipate over a larger distance. So head outdoors—but watch your sun exposure!

Nearly all cases of skin cancer are directly related to sun exposure. According to the Texas Medical Association, one in three Texans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. The month of July is UV Safety Awareness Month, and the perfect time to shine some light on the subject.

What are UV Rays?

Ultraviolet, or UV rays, are a form of radiation produced by the sun. They lie in between visible light and x-rays on the electromagnetic spectrum. This means that they hold more energy than visible light, but less than x-rays. UV rays can also be man-made through certain types of bulbs like those found in tanning beds, and welding torches.

UV rays can further be divided into three groups:

  • UVA – Linked to long-term skin damage (wrinkles) and may play a role in some skin cancers.

  • UVB – Type of rays that cause sunburns and most skin cancers.

  • UVC – Highest energy UV rays, but interacts with the ozone layer and dose not reach the ground.

Which SPF should you use?

An SPF of at least 30 is suggested, with reapplication once every two hours.

SPF, or sun protection factor, indicates the amount of time it take for your skin to burn, relative to sun exposure without it. An SPF of 30 alludes that it will take you 30 times longer to burn than if you weren’t wearing sunscreen.

Steven Q. Wang, MD, director of Dermatologic Surgery and Dermatology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, warns that many people get a false sense of security when using high SPFs. People may choose to stay in the sun longer and skip sunscreen reapplication.

When are UV rays the strongest?

UV Rays are the strongest between 10 am and 4 pm during the spring and summer months.

The sun is highest during the spring and summer months. This means that its rays travel through much less ozone than during the fall and winter. Time of day also impacts the strength of UV rays. Between 10 am and 4 pm, the sun’s rays have less distance to cover. Other factors like altitude and reflective surfaces can also impact UV exposure.

Next time you start to say, “It’s not the heat – it’s the humidity,” think again! Proper protection from the sun should be in practice year-round, especially during the summer months.

The American Cancer created a short sun safety quiz that you can find here. Click through and test your knowledge.