Skin cancer prevention checklist
Sunscreen – check! Hat – check! Sunglasses – check! Common sense – check?
You’ve waited all winter for the reappearance of that glorious shiny yellow circle in the sky that promises an eternity of warmth and relaxation in the short summer months. And now the medical experts are telling you to avoid the sun because of a risk of skin cancer.
It’s the sad truth, and we need to accept it. As warm and comforting as the sun feels upon our skin in the moment, it’s just as dangerous in the long term. The instances of skin cancer are on the rise, mostly due to the overexposure of young people during their teenage years.
“Ninety percent of skin cancers are related to ultraviolet ray damage, and most of that damage occurs to young people,” said Timothy C. Flynn, M.D., President of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. “Skin cancer is too great a threat to take lightly.”
You can’t always avoid the sun, but you can avoid skin cancer with these five important tips:
- Avoid outdoor excursions when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Indirect sunlight also can be dangerous as UV rays that reflect off water, sand, concrete and even areas painted bright white can cause sun damage.
- Apply at least 30 SPF sunscreen and a broad-spectrum lip balm a half hour before exposure to the sun and reapply regularly when outside as the risk of developing skin cancer doubles if you’ve had five or more sunburns in your lifetime.
- Wear appropriate clothing. A white T-shirt only provides the protection of an SPF 4 sunscreen, so darker colors or tightly woven fabrics – such as silk and polyester – are safer options. A wide-brim hat can reduce exposure of the scalp, forehead, neck, ears and eyes by 70 percent.
- Stay out of tanning beds as people who use them at least once a month increase their risk of skin cancer by 55 percent, according to studies, and the numbers are even more ominous for people who begin such tanning regimens in their 20s or teens.
- Examine your skin regularly, especially looking any new black-colored moles or changes in the size, shape, outline, color or feel of existing moles. Immediately contact your dermatologist if you see anything suspicious.
“It is human nature for people to want to enjoy the sun,” Flynn said. “Just as with everything else, though, moderation, taking the proper precautions and regular screenings are the keys to lessening the prevalence of skin cancer.”