Skin cancer will affect one in five Americans throughout the course of
their lifetimes, and 800,000 have a history of melanoma. Skin cancers,
including melanoma, can affect people young and old…but it also
is, in some cases, preventable.
Artificial UV light counts too! Indoor tanning beds have been linked with skin cancers like melanoma,
squamous cell carcinoma and even ocular melanoma (cancers of the eye).
Even if you’re avoiding the tanning salon and just dealing with natural
exposure, you need to play it safe. It doesn’t take long for your
skin to become exposed. Just 15 minutes without sun protection in the
hottest part of the day can damage your skin and increase your chances
for skin cancer.
Use the following guidelines to keep your sun exposure to a minimum and
protect your skin:
Time Your Sun Exposure Right
The sun is stronger during certain times of the day, so it’s important
to keep out of the light when it is at its peak. Stay in the shade (or
indoors) between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to avoid the strongest UV rays from
the sun – especially during late spring and early summer.
Keep Protected with Clothing
Covering up exposed skin with loose fitting clothing can protect you from
the sun’s UV rays. A typical T-shirt has an SPF of about 15, but
that number decreases if that shirt is wet. Wearing a t-shirt while you
swim won’t be as effective as putting on the right sunblock. In
addition to long sleeves and pants (if the weather isn’t too hot),
you should also wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head and
neck. Hats made from tightly woven, dark fabric will give you the best coverage.
Don’t Forget Your Eyes
When you think of skin cancer and sun exposure, you probably don’t
think of your eyes. But they are just as important to protect. Sunglasses
which help block UVA and UVB rays can protect your eyes from exposure
and protect the delicate skin around your eyes. Most sunglasses made in
the U.S. provide this kind of protection, but wrap around glasses will
prevent the sun from getting in from the sides.
Choose the Right Sunscreen
Sunscreens work by absorbing, reflecting or scattering the sunlight. They
contain chemicals that work with your skin to block UV rays, and different
brands use different chemicals to accomplish that goal. If you feel like
a certain brand doesn’t work well with your skin, try another to
find the right fit. You may be reacting to a specific chemical
Putting on sunscreen every day is the best way to reduce your risk of cancer.
Cover all of your exposed skin – including easy-to-forget places
like your ears and the back of your neck. Wearing at least an SPF 15 sunscreen
will help keep your skin safe, but you should opt for a higher SPF number
if you’re going to be in the sun for a long time or if you have
Before you use a sunscreen, check the expiration date. They last about
three years, but should be thrown out sooner if they’ve been exposed
to high temperatures.
Once you find a brand that you like, reapply it often if you’re in
the sun for more than two hours, or you’ve been swimming or doing
physical activity that makes you sweat. Without reapplication, you’ll
be no better than if you didn’t wear sunscreen at all.
You can help prevent skin cancers and melanoma into the summer. Avoid the
sun when possible, wear sunscreen when you’ll be exposed and be
sure to reapply often.