Headed to the beach or park for a little fresh air? Don’t forget your sun protection, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) advises.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, affecting one in five Americans, but many don’t protect themselves from harmful UV rays.

Sixty percent of respondents to an AAD survey said they had had such a bad sunburn their clothes were uncomfortable, and 43% hurt too much to sleep.

“Sunburns are highly preventable, but each year, one in three U.S. adults gets sunburned,” said AAD president Dr. Bruce Thiers.

“As dermatologists, we know that unprotected exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays is a major risk factor for skin cancer,” he said in an academy news release. “It only takes a few simple steps to protect yourself from the sun, and it can reduce your risk of getting sunburns, skin cancer and premature skin aging, such as wrinkles and age spots.”

To protect yourself, the AAD recommends:

  • Seek shade when the sun’s rays are strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Rule of thumb: If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  • Wear sun-protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on areas not covered by clothing.
  • Be careful around water and sand, because these can reflect the sun’s rays and increase your chance of sunburn.
  • Choose not to tan. A base tan will not prevent sunburn. And tanning damages the DNA in skin, increasing the risk of skin cancer and premature skin aging.

Using a sunscreen properly will help protect you. Choose a chemical or physical sunscreen. Chemical sunscreens contain one or more of these ingredients: oxybenzone, avobenzone, octisalate, octocrylene, homosalate and octinoxate. Physical sunscreens contain zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide.

For kids and those with sensitive skin, a physical sunscreen may be best, the academy noted. People with darker skin may prefer tinted products that blend with the natural skin color.

Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outdoors and reapply every two hours or after swimming or sweating — even on cloudy days.

And remember: Check the label. Sunscreens expire after three years.

More information

To learn more about preventing skin cancer, visit the Skin Cancer Foundation.