May is designated as National Skin Cancer Awareness month. Coincidently, it also happens to be the same month when the bitter memory of winter starts to melt away and we welcome spring and summer with open arms. But before we pack up the kids and head outside, let’s stop for a second to talk about skin cancer.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer during their lifetime. Currently, 13 million Americans are living with a history of nonmelanoma skin cancer, and nearly 800,000 Americans are living with a history of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer. But there is some good news- because skin cancer is predominantly a lifestyle disease it is also highly preventable!
Here are some helpful tips to ensure that you and your family stay safe in the sun this summer:
- Seek the shade: Especially between the hours of 10 AM to 4 PM because this is when the sun is at its strongest. A good rule of thumb is the shadow rule—if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s harmful UV radiation is stronger; if your shadow is longer the UV radiation is less intense.
- Avoid burning: No one enjoys sunburn to begin with, but research shows that your risk for melanoma doubles if you have had five or more sunburns during your life.
- Cover up: Clothing, UV-blocking sunglasses, and hats are a great way to protect you and your family from the sun’s harmful rays. Clothing can be your most effective form of sun protection; so the more you are able to cover, the better.
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen: You should use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or higher every day. If you know you are going to be outside for an extended period of time use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply Constantly: You should apply your sunscreen 30 minutes prior to going outside and reapply every two hours, or immediately after sweating or swimming.
- Keep newborns out of the sun: Sunscreens may be used on babies over the age of six months, but they should also be protected by shade and clothing. Children are very sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. Remember, one severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chances of developing melanoma later in life.
- Know the Warning Signs: The ABCDE’s of Melanoma
Moles, brown spots and growths on the skin are usually harmless — but not always. Anyone who has more than 100 moles is at greater risk for melanoma. The first signs can appear in one or more atypical moles. That’s why it’s so important to get to know your skin very well and to recognize any changes in the moles on your body. Look for the ABCDE signs of melanoma, and if you see one or more, make an appointment with a physician immediately.