Did you know that skin cancer is the most preventable cancer?
Skin cancer prevention is a powerful tool to help you never have to deal with it. It is considered a “lifestyle cancer”, one that can be prevented by making the right choices. Some people think that skin cancer isn’t as serious as other cancers but melanoma, the most dangerous type of skin cancer, can be very deadly.
May is the time of year that people are starting to get more active outside — grilling, attending social gatherings and engaging in outdoor physical activity, so it’s an obvious choice for Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
Here are a few simple tips to significantly decrease your risk of developing skin cancer.
Stay in the shade and keep your skin covered
Staying in the shade, especially during 10 am to 4 pm, will decrease your exposure to damaging rays and it will also keep you cooler. Wear summer clothing designed for protecting your skin. Choose darker, more densely woven fabrics with long sleeves and pant legs.
Avoiding being in the sun too long is one of your best methods of skin cancer prevention. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, your risk for melanoma increases by 50% if you’ve had five or more sunburns in your lifetime!
Skip the tanning booth
By going to the tanning salon four times per year, you can increase your risk of skin cancer by 11% or more. That is serious enough to think twice about wasting money and increasing your chance of developing cancer.
Invest in sunscreen
When purchasing sunscreen, you must buy a product that protects you from UVA and UVB rays that is 30 SPF or higher for extended outdoor periods, or 15 SPF for shorter exposures. Always apply 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and reapply based on the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Sunscreen will minimize your exposure to the harmful rays that are linked with skin cancer. If you’re like me and you prefer more natural products, you can try sunscreens that protect by serving as a physical block on top of the skin rather than those that are absorbed into the skin. Topical sunscreens are made with zinc oxide and titanium dioxide as the active ingredients rather than benzones which are found in many traditional sunscreens and have been linked with hormone disruption. In addition to wearing sunscreen, try on a wide-brimmed hat, wear lip balm and some sunglasses!
Think about what you eat
Consider the following supplements, which have all been researched for their skin cancer risk-reducing properties. Some of these supplements, such as Avemar, have also been shown to have beneficial effects in individuals already diagnosed with melanoma. Be sure to discuss any supplement choices with your dietitian and medical team before getting started. It is important to understand potential supplement interactions and contraindications.
- Heliocare: an antioxidant formula made from a plant designed to help protect your skin against sun damage
- Avemar: a fermented wheat germ extract, researched to promote better outcomes for people with melanoma
- Nicatinamide: a B vitamin that may reduce risk of skin cancer
Protect little ones
Infants and children have more sensitive skin than adults and it takes only one severe sunburn to double their risk for melanoma later in life. In addition to helping protect their skin early, it will also help engrain good skin cancer prevention habits for the long run.
Pay attention to your skin
Take notice of changes in your skin, moles or any markings and talk with your healthcare providers about any concerns that you may have. It is much better to bring up a concern that turns out to be harmless than to ignore something dangerous.
Skin exams with a dermatologist are generally recommended once per year unless you are at increased risk of skin cancer and require exams more frequently.
Make Skin Cancer Prevention Easy
Over time I have learned some handy tips to decrease sun exposure on my skin and with my family. One of the hardest challenges for the little ones is putting the sunscreen on 30 minutes prior to going in the sun. Recently, we spent time with our six-year-old nephew in Florida and we were getting ready to jump in the pool. He had the hardest time sitting still for those 30 minutes but my sister-in-law kept him entertained by providing a snack between the sunscreen application and the pool time.
A lot of times I find that we end up outside longer than expected and storing sunscreen and hats in the garage helps keep protection easier. I keep sunscreen stored in my purse, the diaper bag and the stroller and large brimmed hats are packed in the car. At the park and the yard I know where the shady areas are located.
To learn more about skin cancer awareness visit skincancer.org.
Catching skin cancer as early as possible is so important, now more so than perhaps ever before. Studies show that skin cancer rates are on the rise (in particular cases of melanoma). Factors such as significant early exposure to sun without protection and the use of tanning beds have left younger generations at significant risk for developing skin cancer. It’s why things like performing monthly self-exams for skin cancer are so important too. Similar to how we are advised to perform regular self-exams for lumps that could be potentially cancerous, becoming familiar with your skin means its more likely you’ll notice something that seems a bit strange or bizarre.