When it comes to sun protection, how would you grade yourself? Do you lather on sunscreen and wear a hat and sunglasses every time you walk out the door? How often do you reapply sunscreen when you’re outside? If it’s a cloudy day, do you even bother with sunscreen?
The arrival of summer means more time spent outdoors, so it’s important that we all take extra steps to protect our skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, affecting 1 in 5 Americans, and it’s caused by overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which come from the sun or man-made sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps. The sun’s UV rays are strongest in the middle of the day, during the spring and summer months, and at higher altitudes. These rays can also bounce off water, sand, snow or pavement, and are strong enough to break through the heaviest of cloud cover. Every time you step outside during daylight, you’re exposed to UV rays.
You should also do a self-exam of your entire body at least once a month to check for skin changes that could be cancerous. Choose a well-lit area that has a full-length mirror and carefully check for any existing moles, blemishes, freckles or other marks (use a hand mirror to examine those hard-to-reach places). You should also part your hair to check for any spots on your scalp. If you see any new spots, make a note of their location. If you do find a spot that looks suspect, contact your doctor. The ABCDE guideline is a good one to use to determine if a spot warrants further investigation:
Enjoy the warm sunshine this summer, but do it safely. By adding a couple extra minutes to your skincare routine every day and remaining diligent about checking your body for new or worsening spots once a month, you can lower your chances of developing skin cancer.