Have Fun in the Sun while Taking these Skin Cancer Prevention Steps
As summer approaches (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere), it’s important to consider how more direct sunlight can affect your skin. While sunburns are the short-term consequences you have to deal with after too much time in the summer sun, the long-term effects can be much more detrimental to your skin health. According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States, with 1 in 5 Americans estimated to develop skin cancer by age 70. Also, over 1 million Americans are currently living with melanoma, one of the most dangerous forms of skin cancer. To reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, follow these sun damage prevention tips.
Make Sunscreen Part of Your Daily Routine
Just like brushing your teeth and washing your face, it’s important to incorporate applying sunscreen into your regular daily routine. No matter if you are staying primarily indoors, if it’s a cloudy day, or if it’s the middle of winter, without proper skin protection, you can still encounter harmful UV radiation from the sun. One easy way to sneak in sunscreen each day is to use a moisturizer or color-correcting cream that includes a minimum SPF of 30.
Avoid Peak Hours
Sunlight offers plenty of benefits, like helping the body make Vitamin D, an essential nutrient for your bones, blood cells and immune system. But that doesn’t give you free rein to soak up as much sun whenever you want. To stay protected, avoid exposing your skin during the sun’s peak hours, which occur between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you do plan to be outdoors during those hours, be sure to follow other suggestions on this list, such as covering up with protective clothing and wearing a broad-spectrum sunscreen.
If you are attending an outdoor event during peak sun hours, one way to reduce your risk of dangerous sun exposure is by staying in the shade. Whether you find shade under an umbrella, a tree, or in the shadow of a building, keep in mind that you still may be exposed to the sun at different angles. That’s why it is important to couple sunburn prevention methods like sunscreen, shade, and cover ups!
Say No to Tanning Beds
Despite what you may have heard, tanning beds and booths are not safer than the sun when it comes to experiencing skin damage from UV exposure. According to the AAD, just one indoor tanning session can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. If you desire a year-round tan, try using a non-toxic self-tanner or tinted moisturizer for healthier alternatives to tanning.
In addition to applying sunscreen and seeking out shade when you are spending time outdoors, another great tip is to wear protective clothing and accessories to keep your skin shaded from the sun’s harmful rays. Use a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face and neck and opt for clothing fabrics and colors that offer the most protection. For example, dark or bright colors absorb UV rays whereas lighter colors allow those rays to reach the skin. For the best protection, choose densely woven cloth, like denim or canvas over sheer or loosely woven clothes. Finally, select clothing that is loose-fitting, as tighter clothes reduce the level of protection from UV light.
Monitor Your Skin for Changes Each Month
Even if you employ each of the tips recommended above, it is still important to set time aside each month to monitor any changes in your skin. Specifically, when tracking moles or spots on your skin, take notice of any increases in size, as well as changes in color or symmetry. If you notice any unusual changes, be sure to schedule an appointment with your dermatologist. In some cases of pigmented lesions, DermTech testing may be an option to detect skin cancer without a biopsy. Many incidences of skin cancer can be more successfully addressed when found early.
Schedule an Annual Skin Exam
While there are daily and monthly steps you can take on your own to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, it’s equally important to schedule a head-to-toe skin exam each year with your dermatologist. This annual exam allows the doctor to track any skin changes or concerns that may have arisen since the previous examination. In particular, melanoma is a type of skin cancer that is often found in areas of the body that you may not be able to see, such as on the back or the backs of your arms and legs. Your annual skin exam allows the doctor to check out those hard-to-see areas and catch any signs of cancer before they become problematic.
Although not every incidence of skin cancer can be prevented, by incorporating these steps into your normal routine, you can reduce your risk and respond quickly to any noticeable changes you see in your skin. With a little planning, you can easily adopt these sun damage prevention tips while continuing to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors this summer.