The sun is an important part of our lives. Sunny days have a positive impact on our mood, increase our level of physical activity, make many social events and gatherings possible, and even benefit our health by providing our bodies with essential vitamin D. Unfortunately, sun exposure also presents risk factors that can lead to skin or eye damage, and even skin cancer. Skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types. Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Prevention and early detection are the best ways to keep your skin healthy. It’s important to learn what you can do to protect yourself and how to spot any possible signs of skin cancer.
Here are some easy ways to protect your skin from sun damage:
Wear sunscreen with a SPF 15 or higher. If you have fair skin or light hair, you are more susceptible to the sun’s rays and should use a sunscreen with a higher SPF.
Choose sunscreen labeled “broad spectrum” meaning that it protects against two types of harmful rays: UVA and UVB.
Use waterproof sunscreen to make sure it stays on longer, even if you perspire or get wet.
Reapply sunscreen often – usually every two hours, but sooner if you’ve been swimming or are perspiring heavily.
Cover your whole body. Remember those areas that can be easy to forget, such as your ears, eyelids, lips, nose, hands, feet, and the top of your head.
Seek shade or avoid the sun during the peak hours of 10am – 4pm. The sun is strongest during those hours, even on cloudy days.
Wear a hat with a wide brim to help shade your eyes, ears and head.
Wear wrap-around sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection to safeguard your eyes.
Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that protects a larger area of your skin such as long-sleeve shirts or long pants. Tightly woven fabrics in dark or bright colors are best.
Examining Your Skin
Get a professional skin examination from a dermatologist once a year, and learn how to perform a monthly self-examination. Skin self-exams do not require any special medical equipment. All you need are your eyes, a mirror, and the knowledge of what to look for. Here are some tips:
- Perform skin self-examinations in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. Use a handheld mirror for hard-to-see places.
- Learn the pattern of your moles, freckles or other birthmarks so that you will notice any changes.
- Look for new growths, spots, bumps or sores that do not heal normally.
- Don’t forget hard-to-see areas of your body such as your head, the underside of your arms, the backs of your legs, and between your toes.
- Know the “ABCDs” of moles. If you have any moles that fit the following criteria, ask your doctor to check them out.
Asymmetrical: Is the mole oddly shaped?
Border: Does the mole have irregular or vaguely defined borders?
Color: Does the mole have uneven coloring or multiple colors?
Diameter: Is the mole larger than a pencil eraser or is it growing in size?