An estimated 1 in 5 Americans will have skin cancer at some point in their lives, so the risks of too much sun are not a secret. However, it may not be well known that reducing your risk of skin cancer is actually fairly simple.
At West Dermatology, we work with our patients every day to reduce their risks of skin cancer, including with patients who have already beaten a type of skin cancer before. There are simple measures that reduce the risk, some of which are widely known while others might be surprising.
Common Measures to Reduce the Risk of Skin Cancers
The following measures for skin cancer prevention are common ones that, if adhered to, can significantly lower the risks of getting the disease.
Avoid Burning (Or Even Intentional Tanning)
Since society often places a premium on bronzed skin, many people still try to get a tanned glow. Unfortunately, UV rays from the sun and tanning beds are an unhealthy trade for sun-darkened skin, as they lead to wrinkles and an increased skin cancer risk. If you look up the word “tanning” in the dictionary, it reads, “The art and science of turning skins or hides into leather.” So, in addition to increasing your risk of skin cancer, one might say you are turning your skin into leather!
In fact, research suggests that a mere five cases of sunburn in a lifetime doubles the risk of skin cancer, and each one after that exponentially increases the risk.
Avoiding tanning beds and refraining from intentionally getting a tan are good starts to keeping your skin healthy and cancer-free.
Avoid the Sun’s Harshest Rays
The midday sun between 10 am and 4 pm is when the sun is at its harshest. If you must go out during this time, even for a short time, wear sunscreen with an SPF > 30 and protective apparel.
Speaking of Protective Apparel…
If you’re going to be outside for more than 15 minutes, protect your skin with a long-sleeved shirt and long pants. Even better, don a wide-brimmed hat and UV-resistant sunglasses, as well.
Don’t Skip the Sunscreen
When you are outside, don’t skip on water-resistant SPF 30+ sunscreen at least 15-30 minutes prior. This will protect your skin against UVA and UVB radiation. Reapply after swimming or extensive perspiration; otherwise, put it on every two hours or so.
Skin Moisturizers with SPF
Use SPF 30+ skin moisturizers every day after bathing or shaving. It is inevitable that you will be exposed to UV rays simply by walking outside (e.g., to the car or the market), so SPF moisturizers will help limit the damage.
Sun protection is important year-round, not just during spring and summer, so wear these types of moisturizers even in winter or on cloudy days. In fact, 80% of harmful ultraviolet light comes through the clouds!
Conduct Regular Self-Exams
Early detection is important for increasing your chances of surviving cancer if you do have it. Examine your skin regularly (at least once a month) for changes in color or texture. If you or your spouse or significant other sees or feel something unusual or changes schedule an appointment at West Dermatology to have it evaluated by a skin cancer specialist. There’s a reason the phrase “wives save lives” is a common saying!
Beware of Reflected Rays
People focus on avoiding direct exposure from the sun so much that it’s easy to forget about reflected sun exposure. Yet, the sunlight bouncing off of water, snow, or sand essentially doubles your exposure, so don’t forget to protect against the reflection of the sun’s rays off these surfaces.
Vitamin D is Effective, Yet Often Overlooked
Eat foods, drink liquids, or take supplements with vitamin D, which help nourish and protect the skin. The following are popular sources of vitamin D:
- Orange juice
- Soy milk
- Eggs (specifically, the yolks)
- Tuna, mackerel, and salmon
Learn more about this essential vitamin at WebMD.com.
Watch Out on Road Trips
Spring and summer are great times for heading out on the road with family or friends but they can be dangerous to your skin. Some studies suggest that nearly half of all skin cancer in the U.S. in addition to fine lines and wrinkles and sun spots occur on the left side of the body – the “driver’s side.”
Rolled-up car door windows don’t help. They do block nearly all UVB rays yet only about 60 percent of UVA rays. Installed transparent window screens can filter out nearly all UVA and UVB rays without affecting the driver’s visibility. Just don’t forget that the screens work only when the windows are up.
Also, keep sunscreen in the car, as heads and necks are particularly susceptible to UV exposure from open sunroofs or topless cars. We’d suggest keeping the roof closed or the top up, but we know it’s hard to resist. So, wear sunscreen, protective clothing, and a wide hat.
Caution for Weekend Warriors
Being a weekend warrior is fun, good for your health, and beneficial to your mindset. Whatever type of weekend warrior you are, wear protective clothing and UV-absorbing swimsuits, tops, bottoms, hats, rash guards, and more.
To Find Out More, Contact West Dermatology
Skin cancer can be prevented or beaten (if caught early enough) by following simple steps every day. Contact West Dermatology today to schedule a personal consultation or find out more.