With skin cancer being the most common of all cancers, protecting yourself from the sun is something to think about all year long, especially on these hot, summer days.
According to a survey by the CDC in 2008, only a third of adults report using sunscreen regularly. However, getting even a single sunburn increases your risk of developing melanoma—the deadliest form of skin cancer. Suffering five or more sunburns doubles your lifetime risk. While sunburn is an immediate reaction, the fact is, damage from the sun occurs over a lifetime. Your skin can be harmed by constant sun exposure, whether you see a burn or not.
Staying out of the sun is the best way to avoid skin damage, but that’s not always easy to do. Take these additional recommended precautions from the Skin Cancer Foundation to help lower your skin cancer risk:
Always wear sunscreen
Make it a habit daily. Choose a product labeled “broad spectrum” that protects against UVA and UVB rays, both of which can cause cancer.
When choosing an SPF (sun protection factor), get 15 or higher. The SPF number tells you how well the product will protect you from UVB, the burning rays of the sun. If you have had skin cancer or precancer, use a sunscreen with an even higher SPF.
Slather it on
Use sunscreen liberally, applying evenly to all exposed skin. Use one ounce, or a golf ball-sized amount, every application. Not using enough will reduce the product’s SPF and the protection you receive.
Be sure to cover often-missed spots: lips, ears, around eyes, neck, scalp, hands and feet. Reapply at least every two hours, more often if you’ve been sweating, swimming or towel-drying.
Know when to avoid the sun
The sun is at its most dangerous between the hours of 10am and 3pm, because the ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn are strongest during this time.
Wear protective clothing. If you can see through a fabric, UV rays can get through, too. And be aware that water makes fabrics more translucent. Put on a wide-brimmed hat and wear sunglasses that filter UV light.
Regular total-body checkups are the best way to ensure your skin is healthy and stays that way. See your primary care physician for a skin cancer exam each year.