6 Timely Tips to Help Avoid Skin Cancer
As warmer months approach, thousands flock to the beach, pool chairs and bustling parks to enjoy the summer sun. However, this daily dose of Vitamin D does not come without risks. Sunburn and cumulative exposure to UV rays (from the sun or tanning beds) can cause multiple types of skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma.
Melanoma of the skin is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States—and a dangerous one at that. It is responsible for the majority of skin cancer deaths in the U.S., reports the American Cancer Society, and rates have risen rapidly over the past few decades. Nearly 100,000 new cases of melanoma will be diagnosed in 2022.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to mitigate the risk. Here are some tips for how to stay safe in the summer sun.
- Check the UV index. If the UV is higher than 3, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention suggests taking steps to protect your skin. The UV index can be found on your phone’s weather app or wherever you get your weather information.
- Stay in the shade during high sun. Depending on your location, high sun may vary, but it’s typically between 10 am to 2 pm.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Higher SPF should be used for areas with sensitive skin, like the face.
- Pick sunglasses that block UVA and UBA rays. People tend to forget about the eyes when planning their sun protection. However, melanoma can affect the eyes just like the skin.
Check yourself for changes in your skin, such as new moles or changes in old moles. The CDC recommends looking for the A-B-C-D-E’s of melanoma.
- Asymmetry. Is the mole or spot even, or does it look very different on one side?
- Border. Is the border jagged or inconsistent?
- Color. Is the color even throughout the spot or mole?
- Diameter. Is the diameter larger than a pea?
- Evolving. Has the spot or mole noticeably changed over weeks or a couple of months?
Take extra precautions if you have characteristics that put you at higher risk for skin cancer, including:
- Skin that burns or freckles easily
- Green/blue eyes
- Red/blond hair
- Family history of skin cancer
- Old age