There are 13 million Americans living with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, and nearly 800,000 Americans with a history of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so we want to help teach you how you can prevent skin cancer.
About 90 percent of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 65 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun. As the weather warms up, it’s tempting to want to spend more time in the sunshine. Here are some tips for how to protect yourself this summer from the sun’s harmful rays:
- Stay in the shade: If you are going to be outside, try to find some cool shade to avoid direct contact with UV rays. Especially during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
- Do not burn: You may think that it’s ok to burn since it will turn into a tan later on, but your risk for melanoma doubles if you have had five or more sunburns at any point in your life.
- Avoid tanning booths: You aren’t safe from the harmful effects of UV rays if you use a tanning booth. If you make just four visits to a tanning salon per year, it can increase your risk for melanoma by 11 percent, and your risk for the two most common forms of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, by 15 percent.
- Cover up: It’s tempting to not wear as much as the weather warms up, but clothing is your best form of UV ray protection. Try to wear pants and long sleeves made of densely woven fabrics when you are out in the sun.
- Wear sunscreen everyday: Even if you aren’t going to be in the sun very much, it’s necessary to wear broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. If you are going swimming, be sure to reapply it every two hours.
- Know your skin: Try to examine your skin from head-to-toe once a month. Keep track of any spots or moles that start to change and inform your healthcare professional immediately.