Protect Yourself from Skin Cancer

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014

By Kathleen Lambert, MD, Georgia Cancer Specialists

Your skin is the largest organ in your body, protecting it from injury and infection. Shielding your skin from sun exposure can reduce your risk of developing skin cancer and potentially save your life.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer for those living in the United States and more than two million cases of skin cancer will be newly diagnosed each year. And it doesn’t just affect those who like to layout or visit tanning beds – everyday activities can leave your skin exposed to the sun and increase your risk for cancer.

Protect yourself this sunny season so you can enjoy being outside – cancer free.

  • Plan ahead. If possible, avoid being outdoors between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the most harmful. If you are outside during peak hours, seek shade or covered areas.
  • Wear and reapply sunscreen. Choose an SPF of at least 30 and apply at least 20 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours, especially if you are sweating or swimming because sunscreen particles break apart after exposure to the sun. When you’re having fun outside, it’s easy to forget to reapply, but remember unprotected skin can be damaged by the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays in as little as 15 minutes. And don’t forget to apply sunscreen on overcast days too – clouds do not block UV rays; they filter them—and sometimes only slightly.
  • Be thorough. Skin cancer can occur in places you don’t expect – the backs of your hands and feet, eyelids, ears, in between your toes and your lips. Be thorough when applying sunscreen and try using a sunscreen stick for a non-messy, easy-to-carry option.
  • Accessorize. Wear tightly woven, bright-colored clothing that covers most of the body. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and choose wrap-around sunglasses that absorb 100% of UV rays to help protect your eyes and the surrounding skin.
  • Choose wisely. Remember, children can be more sensitive to certain products. When using a new product for your kids, dab a small amount on their wrist. Consider packing their sunscreen choice to school or daycare, too.
  • Check medications. Some medicines, including acne treatment and birth control, can make your skin extra sensitive to sun exposure. Check with your doctor to see if yours may have such an effect.
  • Protect yourself indoors. Many adults think that they only need to wear sunscreen if they are going to be outside. Wrong. Driving and working in a building with many windows also puts your skin at risk for sun damage. UV rays easily penetrate through glass. Wear sunscreen every day to protect yourself year round. Single-use packs can be easily stored in the glove department of your car or at your desk.
  • Ditch the tanning bed. Tanned skin is damaged skin, whether that tan comes from the sun or from a bed. In the US alone, 419,000 new skin cancer cases are attributed to indoor tanning each year. In fact, a recent study reveals that the number of skin cancer cases due to tanning beds is higher than the number of lung cancer cases due to smoking worldwide. What’s more, continued exposure also brings wrinkles, brown spots, blotchiness and leathery looking skin – not exactly the “look” you’re trying to achieve when fake baking.

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