As the cold winter weather leaves us, many people enjoy spending more time outside in the sun. Getting outdoors is a great way to stay healthy, but skin needs protection from UV rays. Each time skin is exposed to the sun without protection the risk of skin cancer and premature aging increases. Fortunately, skin can be protected and a few simple steps can help prevent cancer.
“Each year, over 3.5 million skin cancer cases are diagnosed in over 2 million people – that represents more cases than breast, prostate, colon, and lung cancer combined,” reports Dr. Rydzik. “With such a high prevalence, it is crucial for patients to understand the steps they can take to prevent, detect, and treat this all-too-common disease.”
Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
Dr. Gasch states: “While there are a number of risk factors involved in skin cancer, exposure to ultraviolet radiation is the biggest culprit.” Ultraviolet radiation can come from direct sun exposure or from the use of tanning beds. “Pre-tanning” for vacations or events can also increase the risk of skin cancer as it amplifies the “UV-load” on your skin.
Other risk factors for skin cancer include:
- Skin tone
- Family history
- Skin that freckles and burns
- Certain types of moles
Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
- Limit direct sun exposure: Avoid direct, mid-day sun whenever possible. Between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the sun’s rays are the most powerful. If outdoors, spend time in the shade. If that’s not possible, invest in sun protecting clothing. Many stylish options are available today for men, women, and children.
- Wear sunglasses: Protect the eyes by wearing sunglasses any time the sun is out. Invest in a pair that has a label specifying its UV protection. Eyes are very susceptible to sun damage, so give them the protection they need.
- Daily sunscreen: Use sunscreen every day, even if only outside for a few minutes. Every little bit of daily sun exposure adds up to cumulative damage and cancer risk. Use an SPF of at least 15 on all exposed skin every day, and check the bottle to ensure it provides UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection. When outside for a longer length of time, use a broad spectrum SPF of at least 30 and reapply every two hours. Remember to check expiration dates on all sunscreen and discard any bottles that have expired, as they lose their potency with time.
- Protect baby skin: Keep babies out of the sun. Newborn babies should always be protected with a full-coverage sun shade over their infant carrier or stroller. Once babies are over six months old, apply a sunscreen formulated for babies’ sensitive skin. Sun protective hats are important for babies of all ages, as they protect their delicate scalps and eyes from UV exposure.
- Get skin checked regularly: Examine skin every month, and see the dermatologist once a year, or as often as he or she has recommended. Regular skin checks are crucial to detecting skin cancer and treating it early, when a cure has the best chance.
Emphasizing the importance of skin cancer detection, Dr. Rydzik had this to say: “In the end, one of the most important weapons against skin cancer is regular screenings from a dermatologist.”