Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer and melanoma is the most deadly of all skin cancers. It is curable, however, if found in the early stages. Over 3 million people a year are diagnosed with some form of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society states, “The best ways to help lower your risk of skin cancer is to stay out of intense sunlight and practice sun safety.”
That may seem easier said than done when someone is active and enjoys working or recreational activities outdoors. However, you can enjoy the outdoors and still prevent skin cancer by following these 10 practical suggestions.
Top 10 Ways to Avoid Skin Cancer
Here’s what you can do protect yourself from this avoidable cancer:
1. Cover up your skin – That may seem like a no brainer, but actually you can have clothing on that seemingly covers your skin, but isn’t efficient at all. For instance, a white T-shirt offers the protection of an SPF 4 sunscreen, while darker colors and tightly woven materials are better options, such as silk or polyester.
2. Protect your lips – Most people never think of what the sun is doing to their lips until they get chapped. However, it’s important to apply a lip balm with an SPF of 30 to help block UVA and UVB rays. A lip balm with sunscreen is much better than using lip gloss, which acts more like a tanning oil and can cause your lips to burn.
3. Avoid reflected sunlight – Reflected sunlight is just as damaging as direct sunlight. When the sun is reflected off of water, areas that are painted white, or even concrete, your skin can get damaged.
4. Wear a hat – Hats are just the most logical sunblock to wear. You can protect yourself in direct sunlight by wearing a hat with at least a 4 inch brim and reduce the UV exposure to your face and neck by up to 70 percent. Finely woven material is best for sunblocking, not loose weave straw hats.
5. Wear the shades – It’s just as important to protect your eyes as any other part of your skin. If overexposed to harmful UV rays, they can develop ocular skin cancer which has gotten more common in recent years. Sunglasses that meet the American National Standards Institute are safest and you can choose glasses that are marked “meets ANSI requirements”. These block 99 percent of UV rays. Wraparound glasses are best for overall protection of the eyes.
6. Just don’t get burned – Be sure to take proper precautions to not get burned. In fact, those who have been sun burned 5 or more times in their lifetime actually double their risk of developing skin cancer even years later. Whether you’re dark skinned or light skinned makes no difference in the necessity to avoid getting burned.
7. Avoid tanning beds – According to some studies, people who use a tanning bed just once a month increase their likelihood of getting skin cancer by a whopping 55 percent. The outlook is even worse for those who have been using tanning beds regularly since their young adult years.
8. Use sunscreen – When planning to be outside, you should apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before getting in the sun. It takes that long for it to absorb into the tissue of the skin enough to block the sun’s rays. Also, reapply it every 2 hours for additional safety. A broad-spectrum of at least SPF 30 is adequate. Also, don’t rely solely on sunscreen for safety. This is only one step in protecting your skin.
9. Avoid peak hours – The sun’s rays are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 4 p.m. It’s best to plan days to the beach or other outdoor trips earlier in the day or later to avoid the most damaging effects of UV rays. Even when it’s milder temperatures, you should still take precautions.
10. Check for moles – You should check for moles on your skin on a regular basis. If you have a history of cancer in your family, this is especially important. You can check yourself in a mirror very often and then, always have yearly checkups at your dermatologist for preventive measures. Look for new, black-colored moles or changes in moles you already have such as color, shape or feel. You should immediately visit your dermatologist if you have any concerns.
It’s not that difficult to significantly lessen your chances of developing the most common cancer of all…skin cancer. It just takes a little discipline to apply these common sense precautions to your daily routine.