Easy Ways to Protect Your Skin
We have seen temperatures rising and the sun shining brighter these last few weeks in San Diego. Crowds have been making their way to the beaches to sit beneath the sun and get a good “base tan” before summer officially arrives. For these reasons, May is National Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention month. Awareness and prevention of melanoma is important all year, but especially during these seasons when the sun is closest to us and can potentially cause the most damage.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 3.5 million cases and two million people are diagnosed annually. This makes skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Fortunately, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable.
There are a few different kinds of skin cancer. The most common are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), which are both directly correlated with sun accumulation over many years. Melanoma is different. Rather than sun exposure over long periods of time, melanoma is believed to result from brief, intense sun exposure, such as a blistering sunburn.
Avoid the strong midday sun between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Have you ever heard of the shadow rule? If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s harmful radiation is stronger. If your shadow is longer, radiation is less intense. Seek shade when your shadow is short. Which brings us to our next prevention tip:
When you are outside, try to spend your time in shaded areas. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your face and protect your ears. Wide-brimmed hats are no longer reserved for grandmas on Easter. Big summer hats are all the rage right now (especially during “festival season”). Big hats are a win-win because they complete your outfit and help prevent harmful rays from damaging your skin.
Wear a long-sleeved shirt and long pants while out in the sun. We know this doesn’t seem possible all the time with temperatures so high, but cover up when you can. Long sleeve maxi dresses are a good option because they’re boho and breezy and they protect your skin from harsh radiation.
Use a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. It is especially important to cover your face, ears, and hands with sunscreen since those are the areas that are the most sun-exposed (and thus the most common locations for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma).
Do not use sunbeds or tanning salons. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Indoor UV tanners are 74 percent more likely to develop melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, than those who have never tanned indoors. Tanning bed users are also 2.5 times more likely to develop SCC and 1.5 times more likely to develop BCC. The more time a person has spent tanning indoors, the higher the risk.” Indoor tanning is so harmful that it is actually banned in Brazil and Australia.
And lastly, if you are worried about a spot on your skin, tell your doctor about it. If you notice any change in an existing mole or if you notice anything that seems suspicious, see a physician immediately. It is also important to see a doctor once a year for a professional skin exam.
These are some prevention tips to keep in mind, especially as the weather gets warmer and we spend more and more time outdoors soaking in the sun’s rays. These tips can help save lives, so we hope that you take them to heart and put them to use.