Summer is almost here, which means it's time to break out the sunscreen and soak up some sun! But before you hit the beach or pool, it's important to remember the potential risks of sun exposure. Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the world, with over 5 million cases diagnosed each year in the United States alone.
Causes and Types of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer occurs when skin cells are damaged by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. There are three main types of common cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinomas, and melanoma.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common cancer and least dangerous type, while squamous cell carcinoma is less common but can spread to other parts of the body if left untreated. Melanoma is the most dangerous type, as it can spread quickly to other parts of the body. Risk factors for developing skin cancer include fair skin, a history of sunburns, a weakened immune system, and a family history of skin cancer. You can find more information here.
Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers. Skin Cancer Awareness Month is observed every May to raise awareness about the dangers of skin cancers and promote early detection. During this time, organizations and individuals work together to spread the word about prevention and encourage regular skin checks with a dermatologist.
Protecting Your Skin: Tips for Staying Safe in the Sun
1. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen
This may seem obvious, but it's worth repeating. Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day, even on cloudy days.
Reapply every two hours, or more often if you're swimming, sweating, or doing other outdoor activities. The sun's UV rays can cause damage to unprotected skin within 15 minutes of exposure.
2. Cover up
When you're out in the sun, wear clothing that covers your skin. Hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeved shirts can all help protect you from harmful sun's UV rays.
3. Seek shade
If you're going to be outside for an extended period, try to stay in the shade as much as possible. This will help protect your skin from the sun's rays and keep you cooler.
4. Avoid peak sun hours
The sun's rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm, so try to avoid spending time outdoors during these hours.
5. Avoid tanning beds
Tanning beds are not a safe alternative to sun exposure. The UV rays they emit can still cause skin damage and increase your risk of skin cancer.
6. Check your skin
Make a habit of checking your skin regularly for any unusual moles, spots, or skin color. If you notice anything that looks suspicious, see a dermatologist right away.
So, as you enjoy the beautiful summer weather, don't forget to protect your skin and take steps to prevent skin cancer. Your skin will thank you!