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    Consumer Health: UV radiation and your skin

bright sunlight in a beautiful clear blue sky

July is UV Safety Month, which makes this a good time to learn more about the harmful effects of ultraviolet, or UV, radiation from sunlight or tanning beds.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. Skin cancer develops primarily on areas of sun-exposed skin, including the scalp, face, lips, ears, neck, chest, arms, hands and legs. 

The three main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinomasquamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. Exposure to UV radiation increases your risk of all three types.

Skin cancer affects people of all skin tones, including those with darker complexions. However, having less pigment in your skin provides less protection from damaging UV radiation. If you have blond or red hair and light-colored eyes, and you freckle or sunburn easily, you're much more likely to develop skin cancer than a person with darker skin.

In addition to skin cancer, exposure to UV radiation also causes wrinkles and age spots.

It's a common misconception that using a tanning bed is safer than tanning in the sun, and it may even offer a protective "base tan." The truth is there is no such thing as a healthy tan by way of a tanning bed or the sun. The healthiest practice is to protect your skin from UV radiation exposure and instead use sunless tanning products to darken your skin and simulate a tan.

Connect with others talking about skin cancer and sun safety in the Cancer support group on Mayo Clinic Connect, an online patient community moderated by Mayo Clinic.

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