New York State Department of Health Encourages New Yorkers to Practice Sun Safety During UV Awareness Month

Overexposure to Ultraviolet (UV) Rays is the Main Cause of Skin Cancer

UV Rays are a Form of Invisible Radiation from the Sun, Tanning Beds, Sunlamps and Other Tanning Methods

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 1, 2024) – The New York State Department of Health is urging New Yorkers to practice safe habits to protect their skin during UV Awareness Month. UV (ultraviolet) rays are an invisible kind of radiation that comes from the sun, tanning beds, and sunlamps. Tanned or sunburned skin is damaged skin, and this damage can lead to various forms of skin cancer. 

"While spending time outside is a fun and healthy way of staying active in the summer months, it's important to protect your skin while doing so," State Health Commissioner Dr. James McDonald said. "Wearing sunscreen and protective clothing, even on cloudy days or in the shade, is helpful in preventing skin damage and skin cancer. I also urge everyone to never use a tanning bed, booth or sun lamp. Tanning beds and sunlamps produce UV rays that can damage skin just like natural sunlight does."  

Over-exposure to UV radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer, including basal, squamous, and melanoma cancers. Melanoma is considered the most dangerous of the three, as it is most likely to spread to other parts of the body. In New York State alone, more than 4,000 residents are diagnosed with melanoma yearly, and it claims approximately 500 lives in the same period.

Avoiding exposure to UV rays is vital for preventing these cancers and other skin damage. Ultraviolet radiation is present throughout the year, no matter what the weather. Clouds do not offer protection from UV rays.

In observance of UV Awareness Month, the Department urges New Yorkers to practice sun safety by following these simple recommendations to protect their skin: 

  • Wear protective clothing, such as wide brimmed hats, long sleeve shirts and long pants.  
  • Wear sunglasses that block both types of UV rays (UVA and UVB). Sunglasses will protect the skin around the eyes and reduce the risk of cataracts.
  • Use a sunscreen labeled "broad-spectrum" with a sun protection factor (SPF) rating of 15 or higher. SPF 15 blocks out 93% of UV rays, while an SPF 30 blocks out 97% of UV rays.
  • Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15-30 minutes before going outdoors and again every two hours and after swimming or perspiring.
  • One ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered the amount needed to completely cover the exposed areas of the body.
  • Avoid the midday sun, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.  

It is against New York State law for anyone under 18 years of age to use a tanning bed, booth or sun lamp, and valid photo identification must be presented at indoor tanning facilities. Indoor tanning devices can produce UV radiation levels 15 times greater than sunlight. Adults are strongly discouraged from using tanning devices but those who do should follow recommendations outlined in the Tanning Hazards Information Sheet.

Generally, young people are at a greater risk of sunburns and other effects of UV rays. Overexposure can lead to an increased risk for future skin cancers. Parents can protect their children by keeping infants under 6 months out of direct sunlight, and keeping older children protected whenever in the sun. This can be done by utilizing protective clothing, applying broad spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 15 on dry skin, and limiting time in the sun, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  

There are various risk factors that can increase the likelihood of skin cancer. People with the following risk factors should take special care to reduce their UV exposure:

  • Having a lighter natural skin color.
  • Having a family history of skin cancer.
  • Having a history of sunburns, especially early in life.
  • Having a history of indoor tanning.
  • Having skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
  • Having blue or green eyes. 

New York State's Cancer Prevention in Action program supports local efforts to increase the adoption of sun safety policies and practices in community settings. More information can be found here.

In addition, the New York State Cancer Consortium is a statewide network made up of more than 300 members from the public and private sectors whose missions are aligned with reducing cancer incidence and mortality. Consortium Action Teams come together to address some of New York's highest burden of preventable cancers, including a Skin Cancer Action Team. 

For more information about UV safety for children and adolescents, view and download the Department's Take a Stand Against the Tan flyer, which is also available in Spanish. 

More information about tanning and sun safety can be found at