Most of us love the feeling of being outdoors on a warm sunny day, however the Ultraviolet (UV) Rays produced by the sun are no friend to our skin. In fact, overexposure to UV radiation is the main cause of skin cancer. Further, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. More than 3.5 million cases of Basal & Squamous Cell cancer are diagnosed each year, while upwards of 76,000 people are diagnosed with Melanoma (the deadliest form of skin cancer).
While the statistics are alarming, there is a silver lining. Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of cancer there is. By taking a few simple precautions, you can continue to enjoy the outdoors while minimizing the risks involved with UV exposure. Below are some suggestions to help get you thinking about what you can do to protect yourself.
- Wear Sunscreen (Every Day) … You should get in the habit of using sunscreen on a daily basis, even if it is cloudy. The American Academy of Dermatologists (AAD) estimates that as much as 80% of the suns UV Rays can pass through clouds.
- Use Good Sunscreen and Reapply Often … You should always use a sunscreen with an SPF Rating of 30 or higher, with Broad Spectrum printed on the label. Broad Spectrum indicates that the sunscreen protects against both UVA and UVB exposure, both of which can contribute to skin damage and cancer. Sunscreen should be applied generously 15 minutes prior to going outdoors and reapplied at least every two hours. Keep in mind that certain activities such as swimming may mean you need to reapply more often.
- Too Much Is Better than Not Enough … Apply sunscreen generously, especially for the first application of the day. Some experts recommend using an ounce of sunscreen to cover your face and body. It’s a good idea to apply sunscreen before getting dressed to ensure full coverage. Working around the edges of clothing will increase the likelihood of missing a spot.
- Consider SPF Rated Clothing … Many outdoor clothing manufacturers are now producing comfortable, lightweight and breathable garments that protect against UV Exposure, even when wet. This is a convenient option that will decrease time spent applying and reapplying sunscreen and will ensure constant protection for the areas covered by the clothing. These garments will state their level of UV Protection on their labels, much like a bottle of sunscreen.
- Avoid Tanning Beds … Tanning beds and lamps produce UVA and UVB Rays as well. Their use has been linked with an increased risk of Melanoma. If you want tan skin, consider a sunless tanning lotion. Keep in mind however that tanning lotions don’t normally include sunscreen.
- Wear a Hat … It is difficult and inconvenient to apply sunscreen to the top of the head due to hair getting in the way, but don’t neglect to protect your scalp. In most cases, hair won’t do an adequate job of protecting our scalps from UV Exposure. Consider wearing a hat, especially when in direct sunlight for an extended period of time.
- Check Your Skin Regularly … Make it a point to regularly examine your skin so you have an understanding what’s normal for you. If you notice any changes/ growths, see a Dermatologist ASAP.