At last, beautiful weather is here! Before going outside, plan to protect your skin. By following some simple steps, you can help yourself avoid skin cancer -- the most common form of cancer in the US.
Skin cancer affects more than one million people in America annually. Most of these cases are thought to be sun-related. Melanoma, the most serious type of sun-related skin cancer, makes up about 75 percent of the nearly 11,590 deaths from skin cancer each year.
Skin cancer prevention: a concern for us all
All people are at risk for skin cancer, no matter our skin color. Unfortunately, those of us with darker complexions tend not to see ourselves as being at risk. As a result, skin cancer may not be detected early enough, making us much more likely to die from skin cancer than people with lighter complexions. So it's important for all of us to be aware of effective prevention, early detection and prompt treatment.
Make sun safety a part of your life!
To keep your skin healthy and burn-free, follow these tips from the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention and the American Cancer Society:
1. Avoid tanning in the sun and at the salon. You've probably heard that the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause skin cancer and wrinkles. Did you know that the same goes for tanning beds? If you want to look sun-kissed, try a sunless tanning product. It's available at most pharmacies. Don't forget to wear your sunscreen along with it!
2. Wear lots of sunscreen. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, even when it's cloudy out. Use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. It should be labeled "broad spectrum." This means that it protects you from two types of ultraviolet rays -- UVA and UVB. Put on more sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or heavy sweating.
3. Wear protective clothing. Long-sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses are smart clothing options for your outdoor play.
4. Stay in the shade, when possible. Between 10 am and 4 pm, the sun's rays are at their strongest -- and most dangerous. The shade of an umbrella or tree can keep those rays away.
5. Be careful near the water and sand. Being on the beach or cooling off in the pool may feel great. But water and sand reflect the sun's rays, increasing the chance for sunburn.
Examining your skin
Finding skin cancer early is the best way to make sure it can be treated effectively. That's why it's important to check your skin at least once a month. Make an appointment with your doctor if you develop any of the following:
· Any change in the size, color, shape or texture of a mole or skin growth.
· A change in the surface of a mole, including scaliness, oozing, bleeding or the appearance of a bump or nodule (a small, solid lump).
· A sore that does not heal.
· Coloring that spreads past the edge of a mole or mark, often in shades of brown or black and sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue.
· A change in the sensation, itchiness, tenderness or pain of a skin growth.
· Redness or a new swelling beyond the border of a mole or mark.
Your doctor should look at your skin carefully at all routine checkups.