5 Tips to Reduce Your Risks of Skin Cancer
Since summer is almost upon us, it’s time to protect yourself from the sun.
Summer comes around the corner once again! Along with the start of a warmer breeze comes the people’s excitement to bask under the cloudless sky to achieve that long-sought tan. However, harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun can penetrate the skin.
Whether you’re going out for a walk, sunbathing at the beach, or spending time in the mountains, your skin becomes at risk from sun damage. And oftentimes, unprotected exposure from the burning heat can lead to a tan, sunburn, or worse, skin cancer.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF), skin cancer is the most common cancer in America, with over 5 million cases diagnosed in the United States each year. Based on their research, 1 in every 5 Americans develops skin cancer by the age of 70, noting that too much ultraviolet (UV) damage and unprotected exposure under the sun can lead to the said skin condition.
While up to 80 percent of the sun's harmful rays can easily penetrate people's skin, we can still evade the damaging beams and lower our risks of acquiring skin cancer with the right prevention methods.
To tackle the summer months without worries under the extreme heat, here are some tips to better defend yourself against the sun rays even on cloudy days.
1. SEEK THE SHADE
This is the most practical form of sun protection. Experts from the Huntsman Cancer Institute recommend avoiding the sun when its rays are the strongest, which usually happen between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
During those hours, stay indoors as much as possible. But if you're doing outdoor activities, you may need to get some natural shade under the trees, shrubs, or shadows. Whatever you're doing, always remind yourself to protect yourself from direct sunlight.
2. USE SUNSCREEN
UV rays are strongest during the summer. To block these rays and reduce your risks of acquiring sunburn when under the sun, certain cancer care groups recommend applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30.
"Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects against both UVA and UVB radiation. Make sure it is water-resistant and has an SPF of 30 or higher. Other sunscreens may help keep you from getting sunburned, but they won’t protect against skin cancer," Cancer.Net said. Look for these features when buying sunscreen:
- SPF 30 or higher
- Broad-spectrum (protects against UVA and UVB rays)
- Contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or both
- Lotion rather than spray (lotion provides better coverage)
For extended outdoor activities, reapply sunscreen every two hours. You should also reapply every hour if you're swimming or sweating too much. And more importantly, use sunscreen even on cloudy days.
3. REFRAIN FROM TANNING
We hate to break it to you but the "glow" of a tan, which most people usually yearn for during summer, only shows evidence of DNA injury to your skin.
According to the SCF, tanned skin is the very opposite of healthy skin since tanning outside or even indoors through UV tanning beds has dangerous consequences, such as skin damage, wrinkles, age spots, sagging, and loss of skin firmness on the face.
"There is no such thing as a safe or healthy tan. Tanning increases your risk of basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma," said the SCF. The American Academy of Dermatology Association also opposes the use of indoor tanning beds since they can "dramatically increase the risk of getting skin cancer."
While sunbathing may feel refreshing and boost your mood, it still carries some risks. To know more about the dangers of tanning and how they can affect your skin, visit here.
4. EXAMINE YOUR SKIN
As they say, the road to prevention starts from early detection. Although there are no guidelines set by the American Cancer Society (ACS) to detect skin cancer early, you can still examine your skin to check for any areas that concern you.
With just your eyes, a well-lit room, and a full-length or hand-held mirror, carefully go over the entire surface and remember the pattern of moles, blemishes, freckles, and other marks on your skin. According to ACS, the signs of skin cancer tend to appear on parts of the body that are usually exposed more to the sun, such as the face, head, neck, and arms. While doing a skin self-exam, look for:
- A new, expanding, or changing growth, spot, or bump on the skin
- A sore that bleeds and doesn’t heal after several weeks
- A rough or scaly red patch, which might crust or bleed
- A wart-like growth
- A mole (or other spots on the skin) that’s new or changing in size, shape, or color
- A mole with an odd shape, irregular borders, or areas of different colors
Get some tips here on how to examine your skin carefully.
5. CHOOSE THE RIGHT CLOTHING
Although applying sunscreen repeatedly will help protect your skin from the sun, the clothes that you wear are still your best defense against extreme heat. Wearing clothes, especially if they're comfortable, is an effective sun protection tool that provides a physical block against the sun's harmful rays.
According to UCSF Health, look for tightly woven fabrics when buying sun protective clothing as they provide greater protection than loosely woven clothing. You should also pick dark colors as they provide more protection than light colors by preventing more UV rays from reaching your skin.
As for the weight of the fabric, the heavier the better while clothing with less stretch generally has better UV protection. You can also wear sunglasses or put on hats with broad brims to shade your skin from the sun.
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TAKEAWAY: While these tips may help to reduce your risks of skin cancer, kindly note that each skin reacts differently to various circumstances. When you're in doubt after having too much exposure under the sun and symptoms like sunburn, sores, or red patches start to appear, immediately book a telemedicine appointment with your dermatologist.
To know more about skin cancer and how you can help, click here to observe Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May.