ST. LOUIS — Summer is a time for outdoor fun in the sun. However, it’s important to be aware of the risks associated with excessive sun exposure, namely skin cancer.

Skin cancer can occur at any time of the year, but it tends to increase after summer. Winter sees a decrease in skin cancer cases, likely due to reduced outdoor activities in snowy conditions. As summer concludes, the number of people seeking treatment for skin cancer rises again.

Geographical location also affects the risk of developing skin cancer. Areas closer to the equator, like Florida and Texas, have a higher incidence of skin cancer compared to regions like St. Louis. Higher elevations, such as Colorado, expose individuals to more sun damage and increase the prevalence of skin cancer.

Cloudy skies might make you think you’re protected from harmful UV rays, but approximately 80 percent of UV radiation still reaches the ground on cloudy days. It’s important not to underestimate the potential harm of sun exposure, even when the sun isn’t visible.

To effectively protect your skin, choose a broad-spectrum sunblock with an SPF of at least 30. Applying an ounce of sunscreen, about the size of a shot glass, will provide adequate coverage. Remember, these measures apply to all skin tones.

Certain factors increase the risk of skin cancer, including extensive tanning bed use, fair skin, history of sunburns in youth, and continued sun exposure. However, even individuals with a history of heavy sun exposure can reduce their risk of squamous cell carcinoma or melanoma by regularly using sunscreen.

All skin tones require protection from the sun. Regular sunscreen use can reduce the risk of squamous cell carcinoma by 40 percent and melanoma by up to 50 percent. This compelling evidence highlights the importance of daily sunscreen application, especially during summer.

In addition to sunscreen, dermatologist Dr. Erin Gardner recommends wearing sun-protective clothing, such as hats with brims, to shield the ears and cheeks during extended outdoor activities. It’s also advisable to limit time outside between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.

If you do get sunburned, take immediate action. Stay out of the sun, soothe the burn with a cool bath, and apply moisturizer with aloe vera. Seek medical attention if the burn doesn’t improve or worsens.