Although many view skin cancers as relatively innocuous, more than two people die from skin cancer every hour in the United States. Around half of these skin cancer deaths can be attributed to melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. In 2020, experts predict that 100,350 Americans will be diagnosed with melanoma, and 6,850 Americans will die from this form of skin cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, risk factors for melanoma include the following: 

  • Ultraviolet (UV) light exposure
  • Moles
  • Fair skin, freckles, and light hair
  • Family history of melanoma
  • Weakened immune system
  • Older age
  • Male gender

While most of these risk factors are innate (e.g., age, gender), one thing you do have control over is your UV light exposure. In fact, July is UV Safety Month, a health observance solely dedicated to raising awareness about risks of and ways to prevent harmful UV light exposure. 

This month, you’ll likely hear about the common UV prevention tips from plenty of other sources. These very valuable, yet widely-known, tips include: “find shade,” “wear protective clothing,” and “apply and reapply sunscreen.” However, in this blog, we want to highlight a lesser known sun safety tool: The UV Index.

The UV Index

Similar to many other countries, the United States uses the UV Index to inform its citizens about daily UV exposure risk. The United States’ UV Index was created in 1994 by the National Weather Service (NWS) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Its daily UV forecasts are calculated by the NWS’ forecast models, adjusting for elevation, aerosol, and cloud conditions across the United States. 

You can access the UV Index here. After clicking the link, type in your ZIP code or city/state to find your location-specific UV level for the day. You can also do this through the UV Index Mobile app (available for download here). Lastly, use the table below to understand the different UV exposure categories and steps you should take at each level to protect yourself from UV exposure.