The weather is warming up and there’s nothing most people look forward to more than enjoying the warm rays of the sun at the beach or pool. However, May is also National Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and because skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, it is important to understand the risk factors that come along with soaking up all those UV rays. Like anything, spending time in the sun is okay as long as it’s done in moderation. Overexposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays is the leading cause of skin cancer. However, there are ways to prevent damaging your skin while still enjoying the warm weather.
The first act of prevention you can take against skin cancer is to apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 whenever you go outdoors. However, sunscreen may not always be enough. The following ways also help you prevent the development of skin cancer and melanoma.
- Protect your skin by covering it with clothing, as well as a hat and sunglasses to shield your face.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours while you are outside. If you are swimming or excessively sweating, reapply immediately after, and use waterproof sunscreen.
- Stay in the shade as much as possible, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
- Take extra precautions to not burn while you are outside.
- Avoid indoor tanning beds.
- Examine your skin thoroughly from head-to-toe each month and make note of any new, darkened or disfigured moles or sunspots. If any are found, make an appointment with your physician as soon as possible.
- Receive annual skin exams from your physician.
Unfortunately, if skin cancer does develop, there is a chance that it could become melanoma, which is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. When melanoma has developed, cancerous growths appear on the skin and are usually characterized by being either: asymmetrical, discolored, larger than 1/4 inch, changing in previous size, or having an uneven border. If you notice any of these in a previous mole or a new growth, contact your physician as soon as possible for a professional skin examination.
It’s a great time to enjoy the spring and upcoming summer weather, but always remember to put on sunscreen, cover up, and not soak up the sun for too long!