About 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed every year in the U.S., and 20 percent of people in the U.S. will develop skin cancer at some point during their lifetimes, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. About half of all Americans will have either a basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma – the two most common types of skin cancer – by the time they reach the age of 65.
Most skin cancers develop as a result of sun exposure, and since May is National Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, it’s a great time to learn about the steps you can take to make sure your skin stays as healthy as possible.
- Understand the SPF value of the sunscreen you’re using. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Be sure to choose a product that also provides protection from UVA radiation. And for extra measure, make sure it’s waterproof so it doesn’t come off while swimming or perspiring.
- Use sunscreen correctly. Be sure to apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before heading out – that’s how long it takes it to penetrate the skin – and reapply it every two hours or more often if swimming or sweating heavily. Use about an ounce for each application – as much as would fill a shot glass to the brim or fill the palm of your hand – and rub sunscreen into your skin to help it absorb.
- Wear protective clothing. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat protects your scalp and provides extra protection for your face, and don’t forget sunglasses and lip balm with UV protection to protect your scalp and lips. For really bright days, consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt for an added layer of protection.
- Know when to stay out of the sun. The sun is at its brightest and most damaging from 10 a.m. until about 3 p.m., so stay in the shade during those hours – and if you must be in the sun, be extra vigilant about your use of sunscreen.
- Have routine skin cancer screenings. Ask your dermatologist or family doctor how often you need to be screened for skin cancer. Screening is a simple exam that takes just a few minutes, and it could wind up saving your life. Have your children screened too.
Enjoying the outdoors is one of the pleasures of summer, and these five simple tips will help ensure you can continue to revel in all summer has to offer without worrying about skin cancer.