Most people like to get a little sun. Its warmth and light can relax us and boost our spirits. But the benefits come with a dangerous tradeoff: skin cancer.
Ninety percent of skin cancer diagnoses are caused by the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UVR). Most of the skin damage we associate with aging—wrinkles, sagging, leathering and discoloration—is also UVR-related. Just because you get some sun doesn’t mean you will develop these problems. Follow these tips to save your skin while you enjoy the sun.
Tip #1. Seek the Shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This is when the sun’s rays are usually the strongest. If you are going to be outside, head under a pavilion roof or leafy tree – or carry a sun umbrella.
Tip #2. Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses. Clothing can be your most effective form of sun protection, so make the most of it with densely woven and bright or dark colored fabrics, which offer the best defense. Wraparound sunglasses that block 99-100 percent of the sun’s UV rays effectively shield both eyes and the surrounding skin, helping prevent serious conditions from cataracts to melanomas of the eye and eyelids.
Tip #3. Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. A sunscreen’s SPF, or Sun Protection Factor, measures how long unprotected skin can be exposed to the sun’s shortwave, ultraviolet B (UVB), rays before burning, compared with how long it takes to burn without protection.
Tip #4. Use extra caution when near water, sand or snow as they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
Tip #5. Check your skin for signs of skin cancer. Your birthday is a great time to check your birthday suit. Checking your skin and knowing your moles are key to detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
Skin cancer warning signs:
The ABCDE rule is a guide to detect possible cancer. Be on the lookout and tell your doctor about spots that have any of the following features.
A is for Asymmetry: One half of a mole or birthmark does not match the other.
B is for Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched, or blurred.
C is for Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown or black, or sometimes with patches of pink, red, white, or blue.
D is for Diameter: The spot is larger than 6 millimeters across (about ¼ inch- the size of a pencil eraser), although melanomas can sometimes be smaller than this.
E is for Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape, or color.
Other warning signs:
Be sure to show your doctor any areas that concern you.