Skin cancer cases are completely avoidable 90 percent of the time. Here are some simple steps you can take to protect yourself against this deadly disease.
Over 90 percent of all skin cancers are caused by exposure to the sun. So, stay out of the sun! Seek shade whenever possible and limit outdoor activities during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun and its Ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their most intense.
Of course, you can’t stay indoors all the time - and most of us wouldn’t want to, anyway. But there’s still plenty you can do to protect yourself when you go outside.
Most of us associate the use of sunscreen with going to the beach or to the pool. The fact is, however, that sunscreen should be used any time we’re outside for an extended period of time. Look for a sunscreen that offers protection against both UVA and UVB rays, and that has an SPF of 15 or higher. (SPF = Sun Protection Factor. The number refers to how long it will take your skin to redden while wearing the sunscreen. For example, SPF 15 means it will take your skin 15 times longer to burn than it would without sunscreen.)
Remember, it’s important not just to use sunscreen, but to use enough sunscreen. The average person requires at least an ounce (about the size of a golf ball) of sunscreen to completely cover their body. Apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outside and don’t forget to reapply after two hours in the sun, or immediately after swimming or sweating.
It may not sound like ideal summer wear, but the best protection against the sun includes long-sleeved shirts, long pants, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses. The darker the clothes, the better the protection; and you can even buy clothes that are classified UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) 50, which offers long-lasting protection against both UVA and UVB rays.
When shopping for sunglasses, pay attention to more than the style - check the label to make sure that the tint offers UV protection. Also, try wraparound sunglasses, which offer protection from both the front and the sides.
It may be more important to avoid the artificial sun of the tanning bed than the actual sun. Tanning beds expose users to up to 12 times the amount of ultraviolet radiation they get from the sun and can increase the risk of melanoma by as much as 74 percent. If you have to tan, consider spray tans as a safer, healthier alternative.
Pay attention to what’s on your skin. If a mole, freckle, or other mark looks irregular, or seems to be changing in size or color, consult a physician immediately. Also, see a doctor at least once a year for a full skin examination, whether you notice anything out of the ordinary or not.
Too often we think of sun exposure as a problem during the summer months only. But harmful UV rays reach us all year long - even on cloudy days. By practicing these simple skin protection strategies, you can go a long way toward keeping yourself out of “The Red Zone.”