May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so this is a great time to brush up on prevention best practices. Staying out of the sun and protecting your skin from ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the main way to prevent this disease. To take that a step further, here are some skin cancer prevention tips and tricks to keep in mind this month -- and for the rest of the year.
While everyone is at risk for skin cancer, there are some factors that put some people at a higher risk. If you have a higher risk, it’s extra important to take precautions. Some of these skin cancer risk factors include:
Age is also a risk factor for skin cancer, since skin cancer is most common in people over 50. Be sure to talk to your dermatologist about your personal risk.
Sunscreen is a must when spending time outdoors. However, it’s important to choose the right type of sunscreen and reapply it frequently. Look for a broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen that has at least SPF 15 for everyday use or SPF 30 for extended outdoor use. If you’ll be spending time at the beach or pool, or sweating during outdoor activities, look for a waterproof product. You should then reapply your sunscreen about every two hours.
While sunscreen shields your skin from the sun, clothing can provide another protective layer. Wear lightweight pants and a long-sleeved shirt whenever possible. A wide-brimmed hat can protect your face and neck from the sun as well. Some clothing is designed for sun protection, so look for these fabrics when dressing for outdoor activities.
Tanning beds emit UV light, which can cause skin cancer and premature aging. And when it comes to indoor tanning, moderation isn’t a viable alternative. Avoid tanning beds completely for more effective skin cancer prevention. Self-tanning lotions are your best bet for achieving a glow while staying safe.
The sun’s UV rays can harm your eyes, leading to eye conditions over time and wrinkles around the eye area. Look for a pair of shades with 100% UVA and UVB protection. Polarized lenses can also protect your eyes from sun glare.
As you take steps to protect your skin, it’s important to check for any signs of skin cancer about once per month. To do so, stand in front of a full-length mirror in a well-lit room. Look over every area of your skin, including hidden places like between your toes. You might need to ask a friend or family member to check areas like your back and scalp. Call your dermatologist if you notice any changes in your skin.
At-home skin checks are essential, but they aren’t a replacement for professional skin cancer screenings. Make routine appointments with your dermatologist to check for any signs of skin cancer. These check-ups are key for prevention and early detection. Most people should see a dermatology and skin cancer specialist for annual screenings, but you might need to make appointments more frequently if you have a higher risk.
If you’re in need of a skin cancer screening, contact Pacific Dermatology Specialists. Our team of professionals focuses on skin cancer dermatology, as well as other medical, surgical, and cosmetic services. With offices in Long Beach, CA and the surrounding area, we are available to discuss your skin concerns in a location near you. Reach out today to get started.