Summer is practically here already and if you are like me, you look forward to the longer days and warmer temperatures. However, that means more time in the sun and an increased risk of skin cancer. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. It is the most common cancer in the United States, with more than 5 million cases diagnosed each year. About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. But here’s the good news - skin cancer is also one of the most preventable forms of cancer.
Of course, we know we should slather on sunscreen when we go to the beach, but we need to protect our skin all the time. Think about it this way, our skin remembers every minute we spend in the sun, whether we are taking a walk or getting in and out of our car. And, ultraviolet rays can penetrate through glass so the windshield is not a sunblock. One of the simplest ways to reduce our risk of skin cancer and premature aging from the sun is to simply wear sunscreen with a minimum of 30 SPF (sun protection factor) every day.
It is also important to be aware of any changes in moles or other markings on your skin and to get regular skin screenings with a dermatologist. I had basal cell carcinoma removed from my chest a few years ago, so I visit my dermatologist every six months. In fact, I just had a full-body skin check last week.
Organizations like the Skin Cancer Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Acadamy of Dermatology Association (AAD), and more acknowledge this month and work to educate all of us about the prevention and detection of skin cancer.
We have more simple everyday steps you can take to protect your skin...
Seek shaded areas, especially between peak hours of 10 am and 4 pm
Avoid UV tanning beds
Wear clothes that cover your legs and arms
Wear UV protection sunglasses and a hat to protect your face
Apply broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher every day and reapply every two hours when outdoors in the sun
Perform monthly self-examinations to look for new or suspicious spots on the skin or changes to existing skin