Avoiding the sun and using sunscreen are two precautions you can take against skin cancer
Many organizations, from the American Academy of Dermatology to the American Cancer Society, have published guidelines on the best ways to protect yourself from skin cancer.
Of course, there’s no guarantee you won’t get skin cancer even if you follow these guidelines — but you can reduce your risk.
Here are some of the top recommendations:
Avoid the sun when it’s at its brightest: Experts suggest seeking shade whenever possible between the hours of 10 AM and 4 PM, even in winter or when the sky is cloudy.
Wear sunscreen year-round: Sunscreen does not filter out all harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, but it offers some protection.
Apply the lotion generously (one or two tablespoons) to all exposed areas, and use a product with an SPF rating of at least 15, with coverage against both UVA and UVB rays.
Remember that sunlight reflects off sand, water, snow, and ice, and these surfaces can magnify the effects of UV radiation by up to 80 percent.
Apply and reapply sunscreen regularly: Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, and every two hours once you’re outside.
Reapply whenever you go in the water, are sweating significantly, or have dried yourself with a towel.
Cover your skin: To protect yourself from the UV rays your sunscreen doesn’t block, wear tightly woven, dark-colored clothing that covers your arms and legs, as well as a broad-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck.
Consider investing in clothing that is specially designed to protect skin from the sun’s rays.
Sunglasses with UV filters can also protect your eyes, with wrap sunglasses being optimal.
Avoid tanning beds: The lighting used in these machines can actually be more harmful than the sun — and you don’t get the natural protection afforded by clouds.
Avoid sunburns: Even one bad sunburn has been shown to increase your risk of skin cancers such as melanoma, so don’t take burns lightly.
Know your sun-sensitive medications: Many medications increase the chance of your skin’s burning, so check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if any of your meds might make sun exposure more risky. If so, be extra careful.
Check your skin regularly: Look for any new growths, moles, bumps, birthmarks, or freckles, and use a mirror to check your face, ears, neck, and scalp.
Check in with your doctor: If you think you may be at risk for skin cancer, or if you notice changes in your skin during a self-exam, visit your doctor.
Warning signs for skin cancer include:
- A spot or sore that itches, hurts, scabs, or bleeds
- An open sore that does not heal within two weeks
- A growth, mole, or birthmark that changes color, shape, or texture
Contrary to popular belief, tanned skin is not healthy skin. Rather, it’s skin that has been damaged by UV radiation.
Limit sunbathing and all activities in the sun whenever possible. Getting outside to exercise is generally a good thing, but not without proper protection for your skin.
Children, and particularly infants, are at an elevated risk for skin cancer. Ask your child’spediatrician to examine his or her skin thoroughly as part of each yearly checkup.
Remember: If caught early, skin cancer can be successfully treated.
A combination of prevention and vigilance in looking for signs of cancer can ensure that you stay healthy.