Once Memorial Day weekend is in the books, everyone’s attention immediately turns to summer vacation mode. Children are wrapping up their school year, and dreaming of heading to the beach, lawns and gardens are waiting to be tended, and fun summer festivals are right around the corner. All of these activities and more come with a fair share of danger to your skin, but the good news is that it is a preventable danger. Spending all day out in the sun without protecting your skin is putting you at risk for skin cancer. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and before you charge headfirst into summer, we felt it was time to share some information about how you can protect your skin from the sun.
First, let’s review the data. One in five Americans develops skin cancer before reaching the age of 70! That number is greater than all other cancers combined. Melanoma accounts for 1% of skin cancers but causes most of skin cancer deaths. According to the American Cancer Society, this year there will be 91,270 new melanoma cases diagnosed and more than 9,000 melanoma deaths. Here are steps that you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Sunscreen Tips. Use a broad spectrum (look for UVA/UVB) sunscreen with SPF 15 or above. When you are going to be outside for longer periods, use water-resistant UVA/UVB sunscreen above SPF 30. Apply a minimum of 1 ounce of sunscreen to ensure full-body coverage. Reapply your sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or physical activity. Don’t let your skin burn! The risk for melanoma doubles if you have had more than 5 sunburns in your life!
Seek Shade or Shelter. The sun is most harmful between 10 AM and 4 PM when ultraviolet radiation is at the highest levels. No matter where you are, beach or otherwise, make sure you have shade available. Pack clothes and wide-brimmed hats with you so you can cover up effectively. Protect your eyes by choosing UV-blocking sunglasses.
Monitor Your Loved Ones. Even though newborns can have sunscreen applied to their skin once they reach six months, they are still extremely susceptible to dangerous sunburns. Protect your littlest ones by keeping them in the shade or covering them up with clothing. For your children who are splashing in the pool all day, or building sand castles, pull them aside at regular intervals to reapply their sunscreen. You can also find their favorite superhero or princess on a long-sleeved swim shirt for extra protection.
Check Your Skin Monthly. The American Cancer Society recommends a thorough visual skin exam each month to detect any signs of skin cancer. Any changes to a mole or an unfamiliar spot that doesn’t heal or go away should be the prompt that sends you to your physician for an in-depth examination.
What are your favorite summertime activities? How much attention have you paid to protect your skin from the sun in the past? Share your thoughts in the comment section below, or join the discussion on our Facebook page.