How to Prevent Skin Cancer

One of the key ways to prevent skin cancer is protecting yourself from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This doesn't just apply to summertime, but also year round. UV rays come straight from the sun and can have an effect even on cloudy and hazy days. UV rays also reflect off of surfaces like water, cement, sand and snow. 

More than 3.5 million skin cancer cases are diagnosed each year. Over 90% of them are caused by the sun's ultraviolet rays (UVR). Ironically, most of the skin damage associated with aging (leathering, sagging, wrinkles, discoloration) is related to UV rays. This damage can happen all year long. Be mindful, whenever you venture out in the sun. 

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Skin Cancer Prevention: Sun Protection is key.

Between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (9 a.m. to 3 p.m. standard time) is the main time frame to be extra cautious. This time of day happens to be the most dangerous for UV exposure outdoors in the continental United States. These types of UV rays from the sun are at their greatest during the late spring and early summer. 

Of course, most people like to get a good amount of sun, especially in the summertime. In areas that don't have the the sun all year, people tend to take advantage. This can be very dangerous. It's understandable people crave the warm weather, but even if you're not at the beach, a certain amount of sun exposure may cause damage. 

Sun Protection Tips

Quick Tips: 

  • Avoid intentional tanning
  • Never use UV tanning beds
  • Always use at least an SPF 15 (UVA/UVB) sunscreen every day. It could also be a higher SPF. This should especially be applied to your face. 
  • Apply sunscreen thoroughly:
    • 2 tablespoons to entire body 30 minutes before going outside
      • This allows it to soak in
    • Reapply every two hours or immediately after swimming or activity that may lead to excessive perspiration
  • Do not burn
  • Wear protective clothing including, wide-brimmed hats, UV protected sunglasses, long-sleeved shirts and pants and UV protection sunglasses. 
  • Seek shade every hour or so if in the sun for a long period of time
  • Key newborns out of the sun. For babies, sunscreen should be used over the age of 6 months. 
  • Once per month, examine your skin
  • Visit a physician every year for a professional skin exam. 
  • Use caution when near water, snow and sand.
    • These surfaces can reflect the damaging rays of the sun; this can increase your chance of sunburn

Dangers of Indoor Tanning

Indoor tanning (using a tanning bed, booth, or sunlamp to get tan) exposes users to UV radiation at a close proximity. The UV radiation emitted by indoor tanning lamps is many times more intense than natural sunlight. Indoor tanners are 74% more likely to develop Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Tanning beds exude Ultraviolet radiation which is cancer causing, according to a report in 2009 released by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. 

  • Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor.Examine your skin often for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks.

Vitamin D and the Sun

Vitamin D is an important mineral that our body needs to function. It is arguably the most important vitamin. Vitamin D is actually a hormone; it's not even a vitamin and it affects our entire body.  Whenever, you feel fatigued or little energy - it's quite possible your Vitamin D levels are low. Yes, the sun is a great source but it isn't the only source. We shouldn't abuse the sun just to get vitamin D. You can get vitamin D through a healthy diet or talking to your doctor about taking a dietary supplement. Have your levels checked. 

  • A quick 10 minutes in the sun, 3 times per week gets you the vitamin D you need
  • Foods like shellfish, tuna, salmon, egg yolks, beans are a great source
  • If you and your doctor decide vitamin D supplements are right for you, generally a dosage of 1,000-2,000 IU per day
    • Monitor your levels after that. Vitamin D levels should be between 30-60.

Early detection of any skin cancer can save your life.  Carefully examine all of your skin once a month.  A new or changing spot should be evaluated.