Here in Portland where we routinely deal with more rainy months than sunny ones, when the sun comes out — so does everyone in town — even if they spent the entire winter hermited away. While this enthusiasm for that great burning ball of fire in our skies and the much-needed vitamin D it creates is understandable — not taking the proper care of your skin in the face of staggering skin cancer statistics is not.
The Skin Cancer Foundation (SCF) estimates that more than 73,800 cases of melanoma are will be diagnosed in 2015 and 86% of all melanomas can be attributed to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.
Yet, according to a national survey conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) fewer than one in three adults report using sunscreen frequently and even fewer say they routinely seek shade, wear a hat or cover up with long sleeves. As the most common type of cancer diagnosed in the United States, it’s important to take the proper precautions and to be vigilant about monthly self-examinations, checking for skin cancer warning signs, especially since skin cancer can be cured when caught early enough.
Prevention is the best medicine
- Skip tanning and tanning beds. UV radiation causes cancer – period — doesn’t matter if it’s from the tanning bed or the sun. In fact, the risk of certain kinds of cancer actually increases for those who tan indoors.
- Steer clear of direct sunlight between 10 AM and 4 PM when the sun is its strongest and your chances of burning are greatest.
- Use broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) protection. Your melanoma risk doubles with five or more sunburns in your lifetime. Choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 (which blocks 97% of UV rays) reapplying every couple of hours and take sun breaks in the shade throughout the day. Environmental Working Group (EWG) has set up a Sun Safety Store in conjunction with Amazon filled with sunscreens they have rated as the best sun protection with the lowest amounts of harmful chemical ingredients for the body.
- Cover up with beach cover-ups and other clothing items and accessories in colored, densely woven materials to to cut your risk from harsh rays. Be sure to choose full spectrum UV sunglasses and wide brimmed hats shield your skin and keep it cancer-free.
- Regular monthly self-exams should be done for early detection. If you notice any changes in your skin, for example, new or changing moles, seek the advice of your physician.
How to spot skin cancer
Check out this handy guide to spotting skin cancer from SCF along with other helpful information, statistics and a body map for your next self-exam and keep your skin protected and healthy this summer!