Whether you have skin cancer, have had skin cancer or are at risk for developing skin cancer (and we are all at risk), there are steps you can take this spring to minimize your risks and still enjoy the summer sunshine.
If you are currently taking any medication, check with your doctor or pharmacist about whether the medication makes you more susceptible to the dangers of being in the sun. Some medications make you more sensitive to the sun's rays. You should be aware of which medications do so and what you can do to minimize the effects of the medications.
Be aware of your body and any problem areas. A full self-exam should be conducted at least once a year. Using a full length mirror, check your entire body for any potential problems, such as moles or dry scaly areas. You may want to use a digital camera to take pictures so you can immediately tell if there are any changes to moles.
Contact your doctor immediately if you see any changes. If you notice moles that have changed in shape, size or color, make an appointment with your dermatologist to have it checked out. Skin cancer, when caught early, is highly treatable.
Educate yourself about what increases your risk of skin cancer. While we are all at risk of developing skin cancer, even people of color, there are some situations that increase your risk, such as previous sunburns, jobs that keep you in the sun for long periods of time, sunbathing, medications or a family history of skin cancer. Understanding the risks can help you take steps to decrease your chance of developing skin cancer.
Learn about the myths surrounding skin cancer. For example, some of the myths include using a tanning bed won't cause skin cancer and people of color can't develop skin cancer. Knowing the myths and facts surrounding skin cancer can help you stay safe in the summer sun.
Be aware of the highest risks from being outdoors in the sun. For example, the sun is strongest between the hours of 10:00 A.M. and 4:00 P.M. and reflective surfaces, such as sand or water increases the effect of the sun. Plan your time outdoors accordingly. If you are going to be outside during the afternoon hours, look for a shady spot and when around sand or water, make sure you apply sunscreen every couple of hours.
Be extra careful if you live or are visiting areas that are high-altitude, tropical or subtropical. Use the same precautions as you would for being in areas where there are reflective surfaces, being sure to protect your skin, including eyes, ears and lips from the stronger sun.
Know how to determine when the sun's rays are the strongest. For example, if your shadow is shorter than you, the sun's rays are strong and you should seek out shade or move indoors.
Use protective measures: sunscreen, wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses with UV protection, lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 and protective clothing to keep yourself safe. Reapply sunscreen and lip balm often.
If you have had skin cancer or at a high risk of developing it, talk with your doctor about what other precautions you can and should take. Skin cancer treatments are most effective when it is caught and treated early.