Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in America.1 With more people diagnosed with skin cancer per year than all other cancers combined, it’s time we crack down on prevention tactics. Taking measures to protect your skin, along with early detection of possible skin anomalies, can keep you healthy and happy in these sunny summer months.
First things first: what is skin cancer?
Skin cancer is formed by the uncontrolled growth of abnormal skin cells that occurs when DNA is left unrepaired by the body. This unrepaired DNA leads to mutations forming in skin cells, and these mutated skin cells then go on to multiply and form malignant tumors.2 The most common cause of skin cancer is exposing the skin to ultraviolet (UV) rays. These rays usually come from the sun but can also come from things like tanning beds.
So, what can you do?
There are a lot of things you can do to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Let’s talk about a few of the big ones.
Be smart about where you go
Avoid tanning beds and laying in the sun for excessive amounts of time. Both are sure-fire ways to expose your body too much UV radiation. When outside, find shady places to stand, sit, or lay, especially if you’ll be out between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Around these times are when the sun’s rays hit most directly, which means you have a higher probability of getting burned. If you have to be in a place with little to no shade, be sure to cover up and wear sunscreen.
Wear the right clothing
Your clothes are your first line of defense against the sun’s rays. Our clothing protects us from UV radiation by either reflecting or absorbing the rays. The general rule of thumb when it comes to clothes is the more coverage, the better. Any part of your skin that’s covered by clothing is at a much lower risk of being exposed to UV radiation. Therefore, long sleeve shirts, long pants, wide brimmed hats, and UV-blocking sunglasses are the best options for those who want to shield their skin from the sun.
For more information on clothing & UV protection, see these great articles on the Skin Cancer Foundation's website:
Use sunblock (every day!)
For areas of your body that you can’t cover with clothing, sunblock protection is essential. While shopping, look for a broad-spectrum (meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB radiation) sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 for light activity. Use sunscreen every day, even when it’s cloudy or you don’t think you’ll be in the sun for very long. When you’ll be engaging in heavier outdoor activity, use SPF 30 or over. You should be applying about two tablespoons (one ounce) of sunscreen to your whole body before leaving the house. After that, reapply every two hours (or more frequently if you’ve been swimming or sweating), and you’re set!
When it comes to your skin, you want to be constantly vigilant in making sure you’re keeping it healthy. Conduct a full-body self-examination at least once a month. Get familiar with what’s “normal” for you, because it’s different for everyone. Early detection is the best way to make sure skin cancer can be treated successfully. In addition to self-examinations, you should see a doctor at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
If you find something on your skin that you think may be cancerous, contact your doctor right away. The American Cancer Society also has a great article on this topic: If You Find Something Suspicious on Your Skin.
We hope this article has shed a little light (no pun intended) on the issue of skin cancer and what you can do to prevent it. Here at SkyBlue, your health is our number one priority. Do you have any experiences with skin cancer, or know someone who has? Tell us about it in the comments below! We’d love to hear what members of the SkyBlue community are doing to keep their skin healthy and happy. Wishing you a safe and sunny summer, the SkyBlue team.
The Mini Skin Cancer Prevention Handbook https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/graphics/handbook
Skin Cancer Prevention and Early Detection https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection.html
How Do I Protect Myself from UV Rays? https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/uv-protection.html
Skin Cancer Treatment Glossary https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/glossary
Take the Quiz: Skin Cancer https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/skin-cancer-quiz.html