Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. In fact, it is estimated that one in five people in the US will develop skin cancer at some point in their lives.
Fortunately, skin cancer is also the most preventable form of cancer. Following some simple steps can greatly reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Use Sunscreen Every Day
It is a common misconception that sunscreen is only needed on bright, sunny summer days. But the reality is that the sun can damage your skin even on dreary winter days. You can even experience sun damage from the sunlight shining through the windows in your home or your car. It’s a good idea to get into the habit of applying sunscreen on your face every day – whether or not you will be going out in the sun.
Apply Sunscreen Liberally and Often
Many people make the mistake of applying too little sunscreen, then wonder why they freckle or burn. As a general rule, you need about one ounce of sunscreen (about the size of your palm, or enough to fill a shot glass) to get the coverage you need. Apply over your entire body, including the top of your head, your ears, the back of your neck, and the tops of your feet. Also, remember to re-apply approximately every two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating.
Check the Expiration Date
Sunscreen has a shelf-life of no more than three years. And even less when it is exposed to high temperatures (like at the beach). Double-check your expiration dates, and get rid of any expired sunscreen, as its effectiveness is compromised.
Not only do sunglasses shade your eyes from bright light, but they actually protect both your eyes and the delicate skin around them. Sunglasses that wrap around, and block UVA and UVB rays, are the best choice.
It’s a good idea to expose as little skin as possible to the sun. When you’re not swimming, a t-shirt or beach cover up is a good idea. But keep in mind that a typical t-shirt is actually less-effective than SPF 15 sunscreen. Darker colors usually offer slightly better protection, but wet clothing offers less UV protection than dry clothing. And don’t forget a hat! A hat with a brim all the way around can protect your ears and the back of your neck, as well as your scalp and your face. Be cautious with straw hats and other loosely woven fabrics – they will offer less protection.
Learn to Love the Shade
The sun’s rays are especially strong mid-day, between the hours of 10am and 2pm. Staying in the shade under an umbrella or a leafy tree can go a long way toward protecting you from the sun’s rays. But don’t forget the sunscreen. Even when you’re relaxing in the shade, the sun’s rays can reflect and find you.
NO INDOOR TANNING
Indoor tanning has been linked with several types of skin cancers, including melanoma (the deadliest type), squamous cell carcinoma, and cancers of the eye (ocular melanoma). It’s actually mind-boggling how many people still use tanning booths and beds, and even sunlamps, when there has been so much evidence of the dangers associated with them. There are many self-tanning products available today that can give you the sun-kissed “glow” without subjecting your skin to the dangers of tanning beds. Check them out instead.
Know Your Skin
Give yourself an “exam” regularly. In the shower, or while you’re getting dressed in the morning or ready for bed at night, look over your skin, and become familiar with moles, discolorations, etc. This way, you will be more aware of any changes that may occur. And don’t skip the more “intimate” areas of your skin. Most swimsuits offer little to no protection from UV rays, and the sensitive skin of the breasts and genital areas are not immune from skin damage and skin cancer.
See a Dermatologist
If anything about the color or texture of your skin is a concern to you, don’t hesitate to see a dermatologist. With skin cancer, as with any other type of cancer or illness, early detection is key. And a clean bill of health from your dermatologist will give you peace of mind.