You spent the winter months bogged down by heavy clothing, and now that summer is here, you can’t wait to bask in the warmth of the sun’s rays and treat yourself to a tan—and a dose of vitamin D. Why not, right? Though you are getting an awesome glow and a nutrient your body craves, sun exposure should be minimized to avoid developing skin cancer. Read on to learn about skin cancer and the six easy ways you can reduce your exposure and enjoy time in the sun without worry.
The “C” Word
Cancer can develop in just about every part of your body, even your skin. It may be hard to believe, but skin cancer is a very real threat. Mutations can occur in the DNA of skin cells—squamous cells, basal cells and melanocytes being the main three—causing the cells to multiply out of control. As the cancer cells cluster, skin cancer develops in the tissues of the skin. The more you expose your skin to the sun or tanning bed’s UV radiation, the greater your risk of damaging the DNA in your skin cells and the greater your risk of developing skin cancer.
Easy Tips to Prevent Skin Cancer
- Know when to go out and when to stay in – If you want to get some sun on a nice, warm day, timing is everything. The sun is at its hottest (and most dangerous for your skin) between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you can, plan outdoor activities around these hours.
- Avoid sunburns – A sunburn is not just a temporary source of irritation, the damage it does to your skin lasts after your skin color and texture has normalized. In fact, it only takes one sunburn to increase your risk of developing the most deadly form of skin cancer: Melanoma. If you've had more than four sunburns, you've just doubled your chances. One of the key symptoms of a sunburn is reddening of the skin. If you notice this, cover up and find shade as soon as possible, then treat your skin to a dose of aloe vera.
- Skip tanning beds – Tanning beds have long been a popular way to maintain a summer glow all year round, but these devices are largely responsible for the rise in basal cell cancer among teenagers. Tanning beds pose a particular risk because the UV rays it emits are constantly making close and direct contact with the skin and it's layers.
- Stock the sunblock – If you are going to be spending more than a few minutes in the sun, apply a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunblock to your skin. For shorter times in the sun, go with an SPF 15. For any longer-lasting activities, apply SPF 30 or higher. Waterproof versions are preferable if you plan to get in water or if you sweat profusely. Remember to reapply every two hours, as the effects of the sunblock wear off over time. If you've been sweating or swimming, reapply sooner.
- Cover up – Your clothing is one of the best barriers against the sun's rays. You can still sit outside and enjoy the warm sunshine, but much more safely if you wear loose fitting, light-colored clothes that let your skin breathe. Wear a hat and protective sunglasses to shield your delicate facial skin and eyes.
- Examine your skin regularly – Stay on top of knowing what your skin looks like. Freckles, moles, age spots and other normally-occurring skin anomalies are typical, but if you notice a new spot, a black looking spot, or if a spot that has changed shape or color, contact a doctor immediately for evaluation.
There's nothing wrong with loving the sun, but without taking some precautions, you might be putting your life in danger. Skin cancer is on the rise. By following these simple safety guidelines, you can keep yourself and your family protected.