10 Tips for Managing Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment

Article on Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment - Photograph of Woman Relaxing in the Shade

It seems like summer is finally here to stay! We’re enjoying the longer days and warm, sunny weather. If you’re in the middle of chemo or radiation, your summer plans might look a little different this year.

Even if you’re sneaking in a patio nap instead of spending a day on the beach, getting outside is a great way to boost your mood. The most important thing is to make sure that you manage your sun exposure during your cancer treatment. 

Here’s how sun exposure affects the body during cancer treatment: 

Chemotherapy & Immunotherapy



Does this treatment make the skin sensitive to the sun?

Yes; most chemotherapies and immunotherapies make the skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Yes; radiation is known to make the body more sensitive to sunlight.

Yes; scars from surgery are very sensitive to sunlight. The rest of your skin should be unaffected.
Where will my skin be sensitive to the sun?

All over your body. Chemotherapy and immunotherapy can make the skin much more sensitive to the sun, and more likely to burn.

On the parts of the body that were exposed to the radiation treatment. Treated parts of the body are very likely to burn if exposed to direct sunlight.

Your scars will be very sensitive to sunlight. Sun exposure can change the pigmentation of your scars and can slow down the skin’s healing process.

How long will my skin be sensitive for?

Up to 2 months post-treatment 1+ years after treatment has ended. Unlike chemo, radiation can cause lasting skin sensitivity.

At least 1 month post-surgery, and up to 1 year beyond that.

Should I avoid sun exposure during cancer treatment?

It’s true that the vast majority of cancer treatments cause skin sensitivity. Because of this, direct sun exposure during chemotherapy and radiation is not advisable. This doesn’t mean that you have to avoid the sun completely, but you will need to take special precautions to avoid becoming burnt and dehydrated.

We’ve made a little list of strategies to help you stay cool and sun safe all summer long! 

10 Tips for Managing Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment:

1. Avoid the sun during peak hours

The sun’s rays are strongest from 10am to 3pm. If you can, try to avoid being in direct sunlight during the middle of the day. Instead, schedule your outdoor time for mornings or evenings. If you have to be outside during the “peak period” of sun exposure, make sure you choose a shady spot to relax in.

2. Stay covered up

One of the best ways to protect your skin from sun exposure is to cover up in UV-resistant clothing. Regular clothing can work, too, but keep in mind that not all shirts and beach kaftans are created equal. If they’re too thin, or partially see-through, they won’t block the sun’s rays well enough to protect you.

3. Wear a fun summer hat

A big, wide-brimmed hat is a great way to keep your head, neck and shoulders safe from the sun. If you’re experiencing hair loss, try wearing a wide-brimmed straw hat with a light headscarf underneath. The cotton will protect your scalp from the itchy straw, and you can tie a lovely tail out the back for some added colour.

sun exposure cancer SPF sunbathing

4. Apply sunscreen

You should apply sunscreen regularly if you know you’re going to be out in the sun. Some people like to apply it first thing in the morning so that they’re prepared right from the start. Choose a sunscreen with SPF 30. Plan to reapply your sunscreen regularly – especially after swimming or sweating. Speak with your doctor about suitable sunscreen brands. If you’ve had radiotherapy or have very sensitive skin from cancer treatment, your doctor will be able to help you find a sunscreen that’s good for sensitive skin.

Badger Organic Broad Spectrum Active Sunscreen SPF 30

5. Sit in the shade

If you can sit in the shade, you’ll be cooler and less likely to burn. If there’s no shade available where you’ll be going, consider bringing a portable sun umbrella with you, or setting up a tent or sun cover. You’ll be more comfortable and safe from the sun.

6. Stay hydrated

Not only can cancer treatment make the skin sensitive, it can also make you prone to fatigue. Staying hydrated will help to keep you alert and awake in hot weather. Drink lots of liquids, and try eating fresh fruit to keep your fluid levels up. It will also help to keep you cool. 

7. Try a face spritz

A gentle scalp or face spritz can help to cool down your body and moisturise your skin. You can try making your own at home, or purchase the super-hydrating Defiant Beauty Cool and Refresh Spritz. Here’s an insider tip: keep your spritz in the fridge for extra-cool relief!

8. Wear light, cool clothing

Linen, bamboo and cotton fabrics breathe well and will help to wick away sweat from your body. Choose clothes made from these fabrics, and stick to light colours to stay as cool as possible. Time to break out the beach shirts and sundresses!

9. Take a quick dip

A cool shower or quick dip in the pool (if your treatment permits it) will help to lower your body temperature and provide some relief from the heat. If the pool water has chlorine in it, be sure to rinse off after your swim. This will prevent the chlorine from making your skin itchy or dry.  Before using a swimming pool, check with your doctor that it’s safe for you to do so.

10. Sleep with a cold pillow

We all know how lovely a cold pillow can feel – especially on a very warm evening. The GelO Cool Pillow Mat can help you to keep your pillow cool all night long. Just chill in the refrigerator and place on your pillow for lasting comfort.

Although you might be more sensitive to the sun than you were before your treatment, you can still enjoy the beautiful summer weather. All it takes is a little bit of preparation. 

4 Replies to “10 Tips for Managing Sun Exposure During Cancer Treatment”

  1. It helped a lot when you mentioned how you should take the time to get UV resistant clothes when dealing with skin cancer. I understand that taking the time to do some research and compare several treatments can help you find the best one for your case. A friend of mine was talking about how he needed to see a professional that could help him deal with his skin cancer, so I’m glad I found your page.

  2. These are some great tips; after all, you do want to minimize sun exposure during cancer treatment. I particularly like the article’s suggestion about staying hydrated. Cancer treatments take a lot out of you so it is just a good idea to stay hydrated as well.

  3. Dip in the pool? I have been told to avoid swimming pools at all costs because of the risk of infection.

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