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Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, but it is also one of the most preventable. The relationship between the sun and your skin can be a dangerous one. However, all it takes is a smart sun exposure strategy combining sunscreen, shade, and protective clothing to greatly reduce your chances of developing this deadly disease.

Shade Structure Program

The Shade Structure Program is a program through the Alabama Department of Public Health Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, which is designed to award available funding for up to four Title I public schools each year to install shade structures over existing playgrounds or recreational areas to protect students from harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun while outdoors.

Shade Structure Program Request for Proposal 2024

Alabama Students Can Apply Sunscreen at School

A law allows Alabama school students to apply personal sunscreen at school without the need for special permission from a doctor or parent. The law (Act 2017-278) includes both public and private schools. Read the full 2017 Alabama Sunscreen Law for Schools for more information.

How Does the Sun See You?

The video below, "How the Sun Sees You" is an exploration of skin; filmed with and without UV filters on the camera. It allows you to easily see each volunteer's skin normally and how the sun sees it.


Important fact: Chronic sun exposure, whether from natural light or indoor tanning, is the leading cause of skin cancer. Exposure to UVA and UVB radiation from the sun, tanning beds, or sun lamps is the major cause of all three types of skin cancer - melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and basal cell carcinoma.

Visit American Cancer Society - Skin Cancer Facts to learn more about the different types of skin cancer.

Skin Cancer Prevention

Sun damage builds up over time, therefore early detection of skin cancer is important and can save your life. It is important to carefully examine all of your skin once a month for any new or changing spots. Using sunscreen regularly is one of the easiest ways to prevent millions of cases of skin cancer each year. In fact, a recent study showed that just 14% of American men and 30% of American women regularly put sunscreen on their faces and other exposed skin before heading outside for more than an hour.

Here are some sun safety tips to help protect your skin from the sun:


  • It is important to use sunscreen daily, even if it is cloudy.
  • Choose a water-resistant sunscreen, lip balm, or lipstick with an SPF of 30 or higher. Other types of sunscreen may help prevent sunburn, but they will not protect against skin cancer.
  • Apply at least 1 ounce of sunscreen for 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every hour if you are swimming or sweating.
  • Sunscreen creams are better for dry skin and gels are better for the scalp or hair areas.
  • Do not use sunscreen that has expired.


  • Seek shade to avoid exposure to UVA and UVB sun rays.
  • Limit exposure to the sun during peak hours of 10:00 AM and 4:00 PM when the sun's rays are most intense.
  • Be careful around reflective surfaces that can increase your risk of being sunburned such as water, snow, and sand.
  • Keep babies younger than 6 months old completely covered and in the shade.

Protective Clothing and Accessories

  • Wear protective clothing including long sleeves and pants made from tightly woven fabric.
  • Wear sunglasses that are made to block 100% of UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim to protect your face, head, ears, and neck.


  • Avoid tanning and recreational sunbathing, including tanning beds.
  • They both can cause skin cancer and wrinkles.

The Sun, UV Radiation, and Your Eyes

Fundamentally, we need light to see. Approximately 80% of all information we take in is received through the sense of sight. We know the sun can damage our skin, but most are unaware that our eyes are susceptible to just as much damage. Although they radiate directly from the sun, UV rays also are reflected from the ground, water, snow, sand, glass, road, and other bright surfaces. Extended exposure to these rays has been linked to chronic eye diseases including cataracts, growths on the eye, corneal sunburn, and eyelid cancer.

It can take years before you experience any of the sun's damaging effects on your eyes; however, if your eyes feel tired, sore, and gritty after a day at the beach, skiing, or boating, you may have experienced UV radiation exposure. Protect your eyes with a combination of quality sunglasses, UV-blocking contact lenses, and a wide-brimmed hat. Everyone is at risk, especially children. Children typically spend more time in the sun than adults, putting them at risk for developing serious vision damage later in life without regular UV eye protection.

View these everyday steps to sun safety to learn more about eye damage prevention.

Frequently Asked Questions and Prevention

If you have questions about skin cancer and how to protect yourself, check out Frequently Asked Questions and Prevention.

Tools and Resources

There is a wealth of information available online regarding skin cancer, its prevention, and treatment. These links are particularly helpful.

Page last updated: May 8, 2024