Finally, summer is here! The weather is warming up, the days are longer and there’s more time to spend outside enjoying fun activities like swimming, barbecuing, going to the beach or biking. But if you are going to be out in the sun, you need to stay safe. Too much exposure to the sun’s harmful UV rays is the number one cause of skin cancer. Some people think about sun protection only when they spend a day at the lake, beach or pool. But sun exposure adds up day after day, and can become evident on our skin in the form of wrinkles and age spots.
Staying in the shade is the best way to limit your UV exposure. But if you are going to be in the sun, remember these tips to help defend against skin damage:
- Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater at least 30 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply at least every 2 hours after first application, or more if you are sweating or swimming.
- Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
- Wear wide-brimmed hats. If you already have sunburn, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants to prevent further skin damage.
- Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours, between 10 am and 2 pm.
- Perform self-examinations on your skin regularly to become familiar with any existing growths (such as moles) and to notice any changes or new growths.
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common of all cancer types. More than 3.5 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer each year in the United States–that’s more than all other cancers combined.
Most skin cancers can be detected early through skin examinations. Both regular exams by your doctor and checking your own skin frequently can help you find any new skin or mole changes.
On a budget? These resources may be able to help you find free and low-cost skin cancer screenings:
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) offers a program to find free skin cancer screenings in your area. Their mission is to reduce the number of deaths from skin cancer in the U.S. by educating the public about skin cancer risks and providing free screenings to catch skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages. The AAD has conducted more than 2.3 million screenings since 1985. Visit http://www.aad.org/scs/search/default.aspx for more information.
The Skin Cancer Foundation’s “Road to Healthy Skin” Tour is making its way across the U.S. for the sixth year in a row. The mobile tour, which holds its screenings at Rite Aid stores, kicked off in the New York City area in May for Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and the tour is currently making its way across the country over the next four months. Check the tour schedule to see if they will be visiting a Rite Aid in your community: http://www.skincancer.org/events/tour
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) offers free skin cancer screenings. In 2011, ASDS members performed more than 2.6 million skin cancer treatment procedures. To find a location near you, go to http://www.asds.net/find_volunteer.aspx
Also, check out the dermatology departments at your local hospital, clinics and cancer centers, as they may also conduct free skin cancer screenings.
And finally, don’t forget to be “sun smart”—help keep your skin healthy by checking yourself once a month for new or suspicious moles, spots, or other growths.