Sun Damage - Skin Cancer Prevention
More than two million Americans will be diagnosed this year with a cancer that is almost totally preventable – skin cancer. For the most part, skin cancer, the most common cancer in the U.S., is caused by too much exposure to the sun.
People who have fair skin and freckle or burn in the sun easily face a higher risk of developing skin cancer. But people of all skin colors can develop this disease and should take precautions to protect their skin from the sun's rays.
Most skin cancers are highly curable, but one form – malignant melanoma – is much more serious. The number of people with melanoma has increased by more than 100% since 1973.
Luckily, skin cancer is one of the easiest cancers to prevent and detect. Use the tips below to prevent skin cancer. And, be sure to map your moles and scan your skin regularly for any unusual spots or growths. See your doctor right away if you notice any unusual changes or growths on your skin.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tip: Wear Sunscreen
Choose your sunscreen wisely: Select one that protects you from both UV-A and UV-B rays. UV-B rays cause sunburns, but UV-A rays also increase your risk for skin cancer.
Use an SPF of at least 30: SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. Keep in mind that protection provided by an SPF does not increase proportionately with the designated SPF number. SPF 30 absorbs about 97% of the sun's burning rays, while SPF 45 absorbs about 98%. No sunscreen or SPF will completely protect you from the sun.
Apply sunscreen liberally: Apply one ounce of sunscreen (about the size of a ping-pong ball) to every part of your body exposed to the sun. Don't forget the ears, feet and behind the neck. Your skin can take up to 30 minutes to absorb sunscreen, so be sure to apply it about 30 minutes before going outside.
Remember to reapply sunscreen: Once you're outdoors, reapply sunscreen every two hours, or more often if you're swimming or sweating. Even waterproof sunscreen loses its effectiveness due to humidity, perspiration, swimming and uneven application.
Wear lip balm: Apply lip balm with SPF 30 or higher and reapply it every two hours.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tip: Cover Up
Wear sunglasses with UV protection: Choose wrap-around sunglasses that absorb at least 99% of UV rays to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes.
Wear a hat with a wide brim: The wide brim will shield your face, neck, ears and chest from the sun. Wear a hat that is tightly woven so the sun can't peek through. If you don't have a hat, carry a parasol made of a thick, dark-colored fabric.
Wear sun-protective clothing: The sun's rays can still burn you if you're wearing clothes. So wear special sun-protective swimsuits, shirts, shorts and jackets with a ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) as high as 50. If you can't find clothes with UPF, wear tightly woven, dark-colored fabrics.
Wear clothes that cover more of your skin: Leggings, long dresses, tunic tops, scarves and one-piece bathing suits can provide your body extra protection against the sun's UV-A and UV-B rays.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tip: Plan Your Day
Seek shade between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.: This is when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are typically strongest. If you must be outdoors during this time, regularly seek shade.
Make a travel-size sun-safety kit: Create a travel size kit with all the items you need to keep your family sun-safe, including sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, lip balm with SPF 15 or higher, a hat, long-sleeved shirt, and sunglasses with UV protection. Don’t leave home without it!
Never expose babies to direct sunlight: Shield them with protective clothing when out during the day. Sunscreens should not be applied to infants under six months of age.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tip: Avoid Tanning Beds
Don’t use tanning beds: There's no such thing as a healthy tan. Tanning beds expose you to the same ultraviolet (UV) radiation as the sun and have been linked to the development of skin cancer. People who use tanning beds are significantly more likely to develop melanoma than those who don't. If you insist on darkening your skin, try safe self-tanning products.
Remember, unprotected skin can be damaged in as little as 15 minutes. So be sure to take precautions to protect your skin before you go out in the sun.
Cancer Prevention Center
Did you know you can get your mammogram or prostate exam at MD Anderson's Cancer Prevention Center? Most major insurance plans are accepted. Schedule an appointment today by calling 1-877-632-6789.