According to the American Cancer Society, there are over 5 million cases of skin cancer diagnosed every year. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, but melanoma is the most potentially fatal.
You may have increased risk for melanoma if you experience any of these factors:
- Fair skin
- A history of sunburn
- Excessive ultraviolet (UV) light exposure, including sunburns and tanning bed use
- Live close to the equator or at a higher elevation
- Many moles or unusual moles
- A family history of melanoma
- A weakened immune system
Here are 10 helpful tips that can decrease your risk of skin cancer:
1. Seek the shade.
If you’re in a park or on the beach, try hanging out in the shade as much as possible. You can still have fun with your friends or family if you’re under a tree or beach umbrella.
2. Avoid the sun between 10 am and 4pm.
This is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. If you’re going for a bike ride or hanging out by a pool, try to do it early in the morning or in the evening.
3. Don't get sunburns.
One sunburn can increase your chance of melanoma. Five sunburns double your chance. Sunburns are worse than most people think; try to avoid them at all costs.
4. Avoid tanning or UV tanning booths.
Even though you might like the way you look with a golden tan, they’re more harmful than you think. Tanned skin means the sun’s UV rays have damaged your DNA. Also, UV tanning booths produce UV rays that are 12 times stronger than those of the sun, which means they’re 12 times more dangerous.
5. Cover up with clothing.
If you’re going to be outside in the sun for a long period of time, cover up with clothing and hats. However, make sure your clothing is thick enough to protect you from sunburns; thin material often doesn’t provide enough protection for your needs.
6. Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher.
SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, is an important number to look at when buying sunscreen. The SPF factor measures how long you can be exposed to UV rays compared to how long it takes to burn without sunscreen. An SPF of 30 means it will take 30 times longer to burn than it would without sunscreen. Unfortunately, SPF doesn’t protect against UVA rays, just UVB rays. For protection from UVA rays, buy a sunscreen that includes titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, avobenzone, or ecamsule.
7. Wear sunscreen every day, not just when it’s sunny.
Since the sun’s UVR can penetrate clouds, you’re still susceptible to sunburns on a cloudy day. Make sure you wear sunscreen outside even if it’s not sunny.
8. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside.
To allow the ingredients of sunscreen to fully bind to your skin, apply sunscreen 30 minutes prior to any outside activity. If you apply sunscreen after you’re already outside, the sun’s UVR will prevent it from being as effective.
9. Reapply sunscreen after 2 hours.
Theoretically, sunscreen can last much longer than 2 hours. However, just to be safe make sure to reapply every 2 hours, particularly if you’ve been swimming or exercising. Reapplying every 2 hours isn’t very difficult, and can effectively lower your risk of sunburn.
10. Wear sunglasses.
When you’re buying sunglasses, look for a pair that’s polarized and has UV protection. Polarized sunglasses will block the glare from the sun and the UV protection will protect your eyes from sun damage. Remember: just because sunglasses are dark, doesn’t mean they have UV protection.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget these simple precautions, but because just a few sunburns can greatly increase your risk of skin cancer, it’s important to follow these tips to stay safe under the sun.
For more information about keeping up with your skin health, check out RAMC’s new cosmetic dermatology eBook.