Skin Cancer: The Top Five Ways to Reduce Your Risk
Fair or dark-skinned, the damage the sun does to your skin over the course of your lifetime is cumulative. Your odds of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, increases after just one sunburn. Five or more sunburns can double that risk over your lifetime.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Each year more than 3.5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in the US, over 90 percent of which are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVR).”
The sun’s rays are life-giving, but potentially more harmful than people realize. Neither your genealogy nor your pigmentation make you exempt. Skin cancer is sneaky and it is deadly, but there are a multitude of ways to protect yourself.
- Use a broad spectrum sunscreen. These products help shield against both UVA and UVB rays. The UVA rays penetrate more deeply as they are longer in wavelength, but you need protection from both. UVA rays can age your skin prematurely resulting in wrinkling and the dreaded age spots. UVB rays can burn your skin; but an abundance of exposure to either can cause skin cancer. The best sunscreen offers protection from all UV light. Use a good product with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For outdoor activities use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Avoid tanning booths. You may think you’re doing your skin and your health a favor, but you’re not. Some salon’s sunlamps actually emit very powerful UV rays. Your artificial tan is literally doing you more harm than good. Also be sure to check with your state’s laws regarding restricting teen access to tanning beds.
- Don’t skip your dermatologist appointments. Do your homework and get referrals for board-certified doctors in your area and add this appointment to your annual roster of preventative screenings. The examination takes less than 15 minutes and is worth every second.
- Beat the heat with fashion. Today there is a multitude of eyewear, hats, and even apparel designed to protect your eyes and skin. Sunglasses rated to ward off the sun’s UV rays help guard your delicate eyes and their surrounding skin, while brimmed hats defend your face and the sensitive back of your neck.
- Take cover. Under a cabana or beneath an umbrella, if you plan to lounge by the pool or spend the day at the beach, apply that sunscreen generously and give your skin a break by enjoying the shade whenever possible – especially during the midday hours.
Ask your dermatologist for his or her recommendations about effective sunscreens. And just like those travel bottles of hand sanitizer you keep in your bag and in your car, a little tube of sunscreen will go a long way to protecting your health.