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“Soak up the sunshine. Get your vitamin D. Have a healthy glow.” All these things sound great, but increased skin cancer risk does not. Does that mean you have to become a night owl? Of course not. Just learn how to enjoy the sun safely — and your skin will thank you.
About Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is not only the most common form of cancer, but it’s also the most preventable. Millions of people are diagnosed with skin cancer every year. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) are the most common types of skin cancer diagnosed in the U.S., and melanoma is the most dangerous.
Detecting Skin Cancer
The sooner skin cancer is identified and treated, the better chance it has to be cured. When detected in its earliest stages, skin cancer is highly treatable. Be sure to watch your skin for any changes, especially in color, texture and growths.
You should also monitor any new or existing moles for:
Asymmetry – Do you have moles that are an uneven/asymmetrical shape?
Border – Are there any irregular borders around your moles?
Color – Do you have any moles that are more than one color?
Diameter – Do you have a mole that’s bigger than a pencil eraser?
Evolved – Has your mole gotten bigger or thicker?
You should have a doctor check it out if you notice any of the warning signs listed above or if you have a sore that won’t heal or a patch of skin that seems dry, scaly and itchy.
Preventing Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is almost always caused by exposure to the sun, so there’s a lot you can do to prevent it. First, it’s important to understand that even on the cloudiest days, you’re being exposed to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. That means that protecting your skin is a year-round job.
Here are some tips to keep your skin healthy and cancer-free:
Simply put, a tan is just skin damage. Laying out to get a tan, or using a tanning bed, is choosing to damage your skin. There are countless drugstore products that can give you a sun-kissed glow without a single damaging ray touching your skin.
Wear Sunscreen Every Day
It’s not just for a day at the pool or a long hike. You should apply sunscreen every single day — winter or summer, sunny or cloudy, indoors or out. Did you know that sun rays can even damage your skin through windows? Yep, that means in the car or even at your desk, you can be getting UV exposure.
- Apply properly. Be generous and remember to apply to the easily forgotten areas: top of your feet, top of your head, top of your ears, and your neck.
- Use broad-spectrum. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect from UVA and UVB rays.
- Reapply. You need to reapply the full amount of sunscreen every two hours if you’re sweating or getting wet.
- Note the SPF. Choose a minimum of 15 SPF for everyday use and 30 SPF or higher for days when you’ll be spending time outdoors.
- Consider water-resistant. Be sure to choose a water-resistant formula if you’re going to be swimming or sweating.
Wear Protective Clothing
Wearing lightweight clothing (long sleeves and long pants) can offer extra protection. Also, consider wearing sunglasses that block out both UVA and UVB rays and a wide-brimmed hat. If you’re near water, the reflection of the sun’s rays can be even more impactful.
Choose Your Outdoor Time Wisely
The sun is strongest between 10 am and 2 pm. If possible, plan outdoor activities outside of these peak times. If you are outside during peak times, try to spend time in the shade.
Being properly prepared before spending time in the sun can keep you free of short-term burns and long-term damage. And being proactive about prevention is always a great idea.
Find Your PCP in Kansas City
Talk to your primary care provider if you'd like to have your skin checked for areas of concern. Find a doctor near you to help you stay healthy and well.