Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

How to Protect Yourself from the Sun After Breast Cancer

Living Well

June 28, 2024

Content created for the Bezzy community and sponsored by our partners. Learn More

Photography by Nicole Mason/Stocksy United

Photography by Nicole Mason/Stocksy United

by Monica Haro


Medically Reviewed by:

Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH


by Monica Haro


Medically Reviewed by:

Joan Paul, MD, MPH, DTMH


Sun protection is an important part of cancer recovery and prevention. Bezzy Guide Monica shares her top picks and tips for healthy fun in the sun.

If you buy something through links on this page, we may earn a small commission or other tangible benefit. Bezzy and Healthline Media are owned by RVO Health. Here’s our process.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2014. Among so many other things in the crash course of cancer, I learned that it’s important to be mindful of sun protection.

Here’s what I learned during treatment and recovery, plus my favorite sunny-day picks for staying safe outside.

Join the free BC community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

What to know about cancer and the sun

Many cancer treatments cause photosensitivity or sensitivity to light.

These can include:

  • chemotherapy
  • radiation
  • steroids
  • pain relievers
  • nausea medications
  • antibiotics

This can lead to a heightened response to UV rays, known as photoallergy. It can also cause burns, rashes, and blisters, known as phototoxicity.

Surgery and port scars are also sensitive to light. They heal better when protected from the sun.

Plus, hormone therapy drugs that suppress estrogen, like Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors, can make skin prone to dryness, itchiness, and early aging. Why add the damage sun exposure can cause?

Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

How to stay sun safe before, during, and after cancer

Here’s how I protect my post-cancer skin from the sun during travel, beach time, and more.

Go natural

Look for products that are mineral-based, containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. These ingredients are considered safe and effective by the FDA.

Look out for harmful chemicals

Avoid products containing harsh chemicals.

These can include:

  • avobenzone
  • octocrylene
  • homosalate
  • octisalate
  • oxybenzone

There is some concern over the safety of these ingredients.

Go big or go in the shade

The American Cancer Society suggests using an SFP of 30 or better. Products with lower SPF can help as a supplement, but don’t rely on them alone.

Opt for sun-protective clothing

Wide-brimmed hats and billowy, loose fabrics say “summer” for a reason.

What you wear can help protect you from the sun, particularly clothes with ultraviolet protection factor (UPF), which protects the skin from harmful rays.

Products to protect your skin

Here are my top 8 product picks for sun protection. You can give these a try or find what works best for you.

  1. My all-day, year-round sun protection is Dime’s Beauty’s Wonderscreen SPF 30. I apply it to my face, neck, and chest every morning. 
  2. Blue Lizard is water resistant, and it has ingredients that are easy on the ocean’s ecosystem.
  3. Keep an eye on your eyes, too. Look for sunglasses that are 100% UV or UV400 protection. These block both UV-A and UV-B rays.
  4. A new-to-me sun protection item I love is an umbrella! Lily-Lark makes chic parasols with UV-blocking material. Or try this compact option from Amazon.
  5. Do remember your lips. Burt’s Bees Coco Loco SPF 30 lip balm smells great!
  6. UV Arm sleeves are handy when you’re wearing a tee. Slip them on and off to cover up without changing into or layering on other long-sleeved clothing.
Ad revenue keeps our community free for you

Tips for getting the most from your sun protection

Here’s how to make the best of what you buy.

Stock up

I keep duplicates of things at the ready where I’ll will be sure to use them. This includes vanities, purses, backpacks, makeup bags, and entryway tables. I keep sunblock in my car to put on my hands and arms before driving.

Think about your scalp, ears, and neck

While bald during chemo, I learned to protect not just my bare scalp but also my ears and the back of my neck, which used to be covered by my long pre-chemo hair.

Zoom in on the details

Pay special attention to applying sunblock to port scars and other scars that may be exposed in bathing suits or scant clothing. They’re extra sensitive!

Pay attention to delicate skin

If you’re like me, you may have received radiation to nodes near your clavicle. Following treatment, I realized this area receives daily sun exposure. I didn’t think about it until I saw my radiation spot deeply reddened from the sun.

I typically don’t sunburn, but my radiated spot does!

Once the skin is radiated, it’s permanently more sensitive to UV light. It needs protection regardless of whether you typically burn or not.


Enjoy being outdoors and set yourself up for success when it comes to sun protection.

If you have sun protection products or tips you love, tell us over in the Bezzy BC community where I’m the community guide. We’d love to meet you there, where we get it with all the breast cancer things.

Medically reviewed on June 28, 2024

Join the free BC community!
Connect with thousands of members and find support through daily live chats, curated resources, and one-to-one messaging.

Like the story? React, bookmark, or share below:

Have thoughts or suggestions about this article? Email us at

About the author

Monica Haro

Monica was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area where she is raising her son. She loves staying connected to the breast cancer community through her work as the community guide for Bezzy BC, and as production assistant with Wildfire Magazine. After her cancer diagnosis, she has a passion for volunteering, and serves on the board of directors with her local support group, Bay Area Young Survivors. Monica loves creative expression through writing and art. She has shown her breast cancer advocacy exhibit “Reconstructed: A Breast Cancer Documentation Project” with El Comalito Collective in Vallejo, California several times over the years. You can connect with her on Instagram.

Related stories

Ad revenue keeps our community free for you