5 Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Over 3 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancers every year and it is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, according to American Academy of Dermatology.

There are several types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma which is the deadliest form of skin cancer. Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma every day, and the number of people being diagnosed with it is increasing.

Skin cancer can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, or skin type. Hence, it is important to know how to protect yourself from it, and the good news is that skin cancer is a highly preventable form of cancer.

Research indicates that about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers and about 86% of melanomas are due to exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, which comes from the sun and some artificial sources such as tanning beds. There are three main types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC.

The UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and damage connective tissue. UVB rays penetrate less deeply but are still damaging, and UVC rays are the most harmful, but they are absorbed by the ozone layer and thus do not usually reach the ground.

Other risk factors for skin cancer include having a family history of skin cancer, a history of sunburns or other long-term skin problems, a weakened immune system, or older age.

Since most skin cancers are directly related to ultraviolet (UV) exposure, so the best way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin from UV rays.

How Can I Protect Myself From UV Rays?

1. Wear protective clothing

If you work or play outside, try to wear a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, long pant or long skirt to cover as much of your skin as possible. Tightly woven, loose fitting clothes may provide additional protection from the sunlight. Additionally, you may wear sunglasses which offer 100% UV protection to protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes.

2. Use sunscreen

If you plan to be outside longer than 20 minutes, especially around noon, use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher.

The SPF number represents the level of sunburn protection provided by sunscreen. The higher the SPF number, the more protection from UV rays.

Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, so that it has time to absorb into the skin. Re-apply regularly, especially after sweating or getting out of the water.

3. Seek shade whenever possible

Seek shade, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun is typically strongest. Remember the shadow rule: “Short shadow, seek shade!” When you look at your shadow, if it’s shorter than you, it’s a good time to stay in the shade.

4. Avoid tanning beds or booths

Avoid the use of tanning bed or tanning booth as their UV light can cause damage to the skin, which have been linked to squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma.

5. Examine your skin head-to-toe every month

Look for new or unusual spots in your skin. If you are suspicious of a mole for any reason, then it is better to have it checked out as the cancer is much easier to treat if caught early. Also, see your dermatologist every year to lower your risk of developing skin cancer, particularly melanoma.

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