Summer is on the horizon now, and with it will come plans to spend your days enjoying adventures out on the sunshine. Unfortunately, your summer fun could come with a major health consequence down the line should you forget to protect yourself against it. The consequence we’re talking about? Potentially developing skin cancer, the most common type of cancer. With millions of people developing this cancer each year, it’s important to make sure that you take steps to stay healthy and to minimize your risk of joining this statistic.
Understanding Your Skin Cancer Risk Factors
While skin cancer risk factors are present in our lives year round, summer days can increase your chances of developing this illness more than others. This is due to the combination of long daylight hours and the fact that we tend to spend more time in the sunlight during the summer. Because of these two factors, we tend to receive more exposure to sunlight during the summer season. Unfortunately, ultraviolet (UV) light and radiation goes hand-in-hand with sunlight – and since UV rays cause 90% of all skin cancers, the extra exposure we receive during the summer can be quite serious. Not only can it eventually lead to skin cancer, but it can have other negative affects on our skin and our eyes if proper steps aren’t taken to protect them from UV light.
Though sun exposure is the #1 cause of skin cancer, it isn’t the only risk factor to consider. You also need to be cautious if you:
Have fair and lighter skin, particularly skin that freckles or burns instead of tans
Have developed bad sunburns in the past, especially ones that blistered
Have parents or siblings who have developed skin cancer
Have 50 or more moles and/or atypical moles (all of which will need to be monitored)
Have previously been diagnosed with skin cancer
Have had an organ transplant or an illness that weakens the immune system, or have been diagnosed with actinic keratoses (AKs)
Have been exposed to arsenic, coal or industrial tar
Have a habit of smoking or chewing tobacco
How To Protect Yourself From Skin Cancer
As with any illness, having certain risk factors for developing skin cancer is no reason to panic. There are several things you can do to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer:
Wear sunscreen regularly – and do so correctly. Using enough of the right sunscreen – and applying it properly – will help protect your skin from the sun’s rays and prevent sunburns (which substantially raise your risk of developing skin cancer). It’s recommended that people use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on a daily basis; for extended outdoor activity, you should use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Avoid sunlight when possible. Sunscreen may help protect your skin, but nothing is more effective than avoiding the sun when you can. It’s especially beneficial to avoid sunlight between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the suns rays are at their strongest. Note that newborn children should definitely be kept out of the sun, as their skin is much more sensitive than an adult’s.
Cover up! Wearing clothing that protects as much skin as possible is another way you can easily reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. Outfits should definitely include a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses whenever possible!
Never use tanning beds. Tanning – both in sunlight and in tanning beds – is a sure way to increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Remember, tanning is a sign of skin damage, and skin damage increases your risk of developing skin cancer. We definitely recommend avoiding this fad altogether in favor of caring for your skin.
Examine your skin every month. Checking your skin from head to toe for signs of trouble is very important, as this can help you detect developing skin cancer as early as possible. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that everyone carry out these self-exams on a monthly basis.
See your physician every year for a professional skin exam. In addition to carrying out exams at home, you should have a professional skin exam once a year. After all, your doctor may be able to spot something you can’t thanks to their training. While you can ask your primary care doctor to carry out an initial exam, it’s also recommended that you visit a dermatologist, who has specialized training in this area.
Enjoy Your Summer Safely And Responsibly
While skin cancer is a common illness, it’s also an easily preventable one, particularly when we properly cover our skin with shade, clothing and sunscreen. Yet only 14% of men and 30% of women regularly use sunscreen to protect their faces and skin! This summer, we hope that you will help increase this statistic. Please follow the skin care guidelines we’ve discussed, and encourage family and friends to do so as well. It may seem inconvenient now, but we can promise that it will be worth it down the line, and it will help you stay healthy and able to enjoy many summers for years to come.