May is Skin Cancer Prevention Month. Many people don't realize that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer there is, and it can be deadly in some cases.
At SIU Medicine, we want your family to stay sun-safe as you start to enjoy the season's warmer weather. Check out these five simple strategies you can use to reduce your risk of skin cancer and other types of sun damage like wrinkles, sunburns and sunspots.
5 Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer
1. Know the Signs
Did you know even a single sunburn can increase your risk of getting skin cancer? Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun interacts with the cells in your skin and can lead to DNA damage. Over time, this damage can cause skin cells to become cancerous. The sooner you recognize these cancerous tissues, the earlier you can get treatment and the better your chances are of a full recovery.
When it comes to recognizing skin cancer on your body, look for unusual moles, growths, rashes or lumps on your skin. It may help to think of ABCDE.
- Asymmetry: one half of a mole doesn't match the other
- Border: the edges of the mole are uneven
- Color: the mole is multicolored and/or black, blue, tan, etc.
- Diameter: the mole becomes larger than a pencil eraser (about a quarter inch wide)
- Evolution: the mole changes over time
2. Know Your Risk
Some people are inherently more at risk of skin cancer than others. These individuals must ensure they practice sun safe habits every day. They may also need to do skin checks themselves or with their doctor more frequently, although everyone should get in the habit of checking their skin for unusual spots or moles.
People who appear most at risk of skin cancer include anyone with:
- Light colored skin that easily burns, freckles or reddens
- Blonde or red hair
- Green or blue eyes
- Many moles
- A personal or family history of skin cancer
- Older age
3. Enjoy the Shade
Avoid being in direct sunlight for too long, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
4. Use Sunscreen
Every day you brush your teeth, brush your hair and put on sunscreen—right? The truth is, it's recommended to wear sunscreen every day, even when it's cloudy. This is because ultraviolet radiation from the sun can penetrate the clouds. Wearing sunscreen every day also helps you keep up the habit.
Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that offers at least SPF (sun protection factor) 30 and protects against both types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB. Sunscreens that protect from both types of ultraviolet light are labeled Broad Spectrum. A general rule of thumb is to apply two tablespoons of sunscreen to your skin 30 minutes before heading outside, then reapply every two hours or after you go swimming.
5. Wear Protective Clothing
In addition to sunscreen, it's helpful to wear layered clothing when going outside for extra protection. Be sure to include a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses to protect the delicate skin on your face—this will help you look stylish and avoid wrinkles, too!
Some people who are particularly sensitive to sunlight might opt to wear clothing that has been specially designed to protect against the sun.
Are You Concerned About Your Skin Health?
If you live in the greater Springfield area and have concerns about your skin health, contact our team at SIU Medicine at 800.342.5748. We can connect you with an experienced dermatologist or other health professional who can help you feel more confident in the skin you're in.