June 12, 2019 8:37 am
Ask anyone how to prevent skin cancer and the the first answer will (almost) always be the same. Young and old will say using sunscreen is the best way to prevent skin cancer, though there is much more to it than just that.
Time to dig a little deeper.
Of Course, You Should Use Sunscreen
Even young children know they need to be lathered up with sunscreen when they are at the beach. Mom told them it’s important, but is that really the only time it’s needed? Not only should everyone wear sunscreen when sitting out in the sun for any length of time, but you should wear it every day on all exposed skin.
The dangerous ultraviolet rays of the sun can damage your skin even with short exposure outdoors, in the car, and even on cloudy days. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, between 2009 and 2019 the number of invasive (penetrating the epidermis) melanoma cases diagnosed each year increased by 54%. Seems like we are not hearing the full message, or just ignoring it and rolling the dice. Here are a few other statistics to consider:
- One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime
- One person dies of melanoma every hour
- Your risk for developing melanoma doubles if you have had more than 5 sunburns
Scary stuff, but regular daily use of sunscreen with SPF 15 and above reduces the risk for skin cancer by 50%. Use it under makeup, or opt for makeup with SPF in it to skip that extra step.
Other Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
When you expect to be outdoors for an extended time, it is best to choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Wear protective clothing and a large brimmed hat along with UV blocking sunglasses. Try to stay in the shade and avoid the sun when possible between 10 AM and 4 PM.
Be checked by a dermatologist at least once a year, and perform self exams for any new moles or changes in skin lesions on a regular basis. See Michael Shiman, M.D. as soon as possible if you notice any changes.
Tanning beds are a no-no. There are enough faux tanning products in the marketplace if you want to look tan; use them, but still continue to use sunscreen.
Some Not so Well Known Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
Don’t Forget Your Lips
Your lips are one place on your body severely susceptible to UV rays. Keep them protected by wearing a lipstick or a lip balm with at least an SPF of 15 or higher every day. Don’t use glossy lipstick, as it will attract the sun. Be especially careful if you smoke, get frequent cold sores, or have a history of skin cancer since each of these factors will increase your risk.
Layer Up the Sunscreen
One layer of sunscreen is good, but several layers are better. Always opt for a moisturizer infused with sunscreen to ensure that you are covered even when you may not be thinking about protecting your skin. This moisturizer can go over or under your regular sunscreen, foundation, and don’t forget the delicate area around your eyes.
Wash Those New Shorts or Sundress
Believe it or not, washing new cotton clothes several times before you wear them increases their protection against the sun. Even just a little shrinkage can help!
Some Final Expert Advice About Skin Cancer Prevention
There are several misconceptions about the protection of the skin from sun damage, so here are a few facts that you should always remember:
- Regardless of your skin color or tone, you can still get skin cancer.
- The sun can damage your skin after only 15 minutes of exposure.
- Sunscreen wears off, so re-apply it every two hours if you are sun and after swimming, sweating or toweling off.
- UV rays reflect off surfaces like water, cement, snow and sand. Winter can be just as damaging as the summer sun.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses to protect your eyes on the side.
- Keep babies out of the sun, and use sunscreen starting at 6 months.
You can still enjoy all your summertime activities, AND prevent skin cancer with just a few simple precautions.
Contact Michael Shiman, M.D. for an annual skin cancer screening, or if you notice a suspicious or changing mole on your skin. As always, if you have any further questions, give Dr. Shiman’s office a call or request an appointment online.