The sun is shining and the beach is beckoning—summer is the perfect time to be outdoors. Whether it’s a trip to the beach or a quick zip around the house to mow the lawn, you should protect yourself from the risk of skin cancer.
Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause sunburn and put you at risk for developing skin cancer later on. Of all the identified cancers, skin cancer is the most common, affecting more than 2 million people in the U.S. each year. So, how do you decrease your risk? Start here:
Knowing the Risks
If you have light skin, you are at greater risk for sun damage, but people with darker skin are still susceptible to developing skin cancer.
Some other factors that can put you at risk include: having a previous occurrence or treatment of skin cancer, having a family history, typically burning before you tan, having light-colored eyes, having light-colored hair, being at a higher altitude, spending a lot of time outside, and taking birth control pills or certain other medicines or antibiotics.
When to Worry
You should take steps to protect yourself for UV radiation any time you are going to be in the sun, and especially if it is for a long period of time. Being at the beach or pool can amplify the sun’s affects because sand and water reflect the sun and increase UV radiation. Tanning beds and sun lamps give off the same UVA and UVB rays the sun does, so they are just as dangerous.
The easiest way to protect yourself from skin cancer is to limit sun exposure by seeking shelter or shade. Take an umbrella to the beach, or rent a picnic pavilion at the park. Even if you have shade, you should also use sunscreen to help block out damaging UV rays.
· Use a sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30.
· Check the expiration date on the sunscreen.
· Apply generously (usually a palm full).
· Reapply at least every two hours, and more often if going in the water and after drying off with a towel.
Dressing for the Occasion
When going in the sun, wear the proper clothing to keep you cool and protected from the sun. Light-colored clothing is best, because it reflects sun and keeps you cooler. Avoid black or dark clothing.
A hat can help shield your face, nose, ears, eyes, and even neck from the sun. Choose one with a wide brim and a tightly knitted fabric, as it will block more UV rays.
Your eyes are also susceptible to sun damage, so include UV-blocking sunglasses as part of your summer wardrobe.
Limiting Midday Sun Exposure
If you’re going to go in the sun, the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the worst! UV rays are at their strongest between these hours, because the sun is higher up. If you can avoid this time, you’ll help reduce your risk for developing skin cancer. Your local weather channel or newspaper should provide a daily “UV Index,” and this can tell you how high your risk is on a particular day. The higher it is, the stronger the UV rays are that day.
Getting Checked Out
Another good way to prevent skin cancer is to have a routine skin exam at your dermatologist each year. You can also check your own skin for signs of cancer. Look for new spots on the skin, or spots or moles that have changed in color, shape or size.
If you would like more information on skin cancer, or would like to speak to a doctor, contact us at Regional Medical Center of Bayonet Point. Simply visit us online or call Consult-A-Nurse® for free answers to your medical questions.
Skin Cancer Prevention (National Cancer Institute)
How Do I Protect Myself from UV Rays? (National Cancer Society)