May is Melanoma Awareness Month
Designated by the American Academy of Dermatology, National Melanoma Skin Cancer Prevention Month is dedicated to increasing awareness about skin cancer and the chances of early detection so treatments can be given early.
Skin cancer is a growing problem across the world. Over the past three decades, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Currently, each year in the U.S. over 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are treated in more than 3.3 million people; while each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of cancers of the breast, prostate, lung and colon.
Sun exposure is one of the root causes of skin cancer, and it is clearly an issue that we must all be aware of and take the necessarily steps to ensure we protect ourselves as best we can. Here are my tips to protect yourself from the sun and lower your risk of developing skin cancer:
The sun’s ultraviolet rays come in two forms: UVA and UVB. UVA is the form of light that causes premature skin ageing and damages your skin’s cells and DNA; while UVB is what causes your skin to burn after sun exposure. A broad-spectrum sunscreen will protect against both either by deflecting the rays away from your skin or by converting them to heat energy.
Your sunscreen’s sun protection factor (SPF) value is the level of protection it offers against UVB light. Be sure to use a sunscreen with SPF30 or higher; this will protect you from 97% of UVB light.
If you’re planning on swimming or sweat very easily, it’s best to go with a water resistant sunscreen. Similarly, if you are going in the water or towelling yourself dry, you have to assume you are wiping away the sunscreen and its protective benefits. Be sure to reapply sunscreen every two hours to get the maximum benefit and not leave yourself vulnerable.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but it is easily forgotten. Pack a wide-brimmed sun hat when you head out for the day or pack your bag for your holiday. When at the beach or even shopping around town, cover your arms and shoulders with loose-fitting clothing, which will act as a physical barrier to the UV rays.
During hot summer days, it’s best to avoid going out or seek shade during the peak hours (usually 10 am to 4 pm) when UV rays are at their greatest. Also avoid using tanning salons, which increase your risk of skin cancer.
I hope these tips come in useful this summer and help you make the most of the gorgeous weather without increasing your risk of what is becoming a very common yet avoidable disease.