7 Tips to Prevent Melanoma and Other Skin Cancers
Allison Tsai | Oct 1, 2012
Sunlight is good for us. Not only does it provide Vitamin D, which is essential to our health, but it promotes a sense of happiness and well-being. But too much sun without protection can cause skin cancer, such as basal cell carcinoma and melanoma–the deadliest type of skin cancer. Knowing how to prevent skin cancer, while still enjoying the outdoors is a key to good health.
Know the worst times for sun exposure
It’s good to remember that ultraviolet (UV) radiation can reach you not only when it’s bright and sunny, but on cloudy days, too. Plus, UV rays can reflect off surfaces, such as water, cement, sand and snow. The most hazardous time of the day for sun exposure in the U.S. is between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. (daylight savings time). The times of the year when you need to be most careful are late spring and early summer.
Sitting in the shade may not sound fun when you’re on the beach, but it can significantly reduce your risk of skin damage and skin cancer. Find an umbrella, tree or other covering before you start feeling like you need to get out of the sun.
Wear proper clothing
Wearing certain kinds of clothing can help block UV rays. Long-sleeved shirts and long pants made with a tightly woven fabric offer the best protection, although admittedly this kind of clothing is not always practical. At the very least, wear a cover-up or dry T-shirt at the beach, along with sunscreen. SPF clothing is also available, plus there are products you can use to add SPF protection to your clothes.
Wear a hat
If you are going to be sitting outside for a long period of time without shade, a hat can help protect you from UV rays. Wear one with a brim that goes all the way around so it shades your face, ears and back of the neck. A dark, tightly woven fabric, like canvas, works best.
Wear protective sunglasses
Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays are best for protecting against skin cancer. Wraparound glasses protect the sides and block UV rays from sneaking in. And, sunglasses will protect the tender skin around your eyes. They can also reduce the risk of cataracts.
Sunscreen is maybe the most important tool to preventing skin cancer, and works by absorbing, reflecting or scattering sunlight. UV rays can damage your skin in only 15 minutes, so it is important to put on at least an SPF 15 before going outside. Reapply it every two hours you are outside, if you go swimming or if you sweat. Some cosmetics also have SPF and other chemicals used in sunscreens. Make sure to use SPF on your lips as well.
Never use an indoor tanning bed
Tanning beds have been linked to skin cancers, including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and ocular melanoma, which are cancers of the eye. There still remain questions about how chemicals used in spray tanning affect health. It’s possible that dihydroxyacetone or DHA could promote cancer. Staying away from tanning in general will cut your risk of skin cancer.