Skin cancer is an extremely common form of cancer, affecting millions of people worldwide each year. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will contract some form of skin cancer before the age of 70. The good news is that many cases can be prevented through consistent habits.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness month, but it’s important to practice good prevention habits year-round. Here are 10 tips you can use every day to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Apply Sunscreen Every Day
Applying sunscreen daily is an essential step in protecting your skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation, even on cloudy days. It’s also the step people forget most often. Experts recommend using a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to protect your skin from both UVA and UVB rays.
It’s important to apply a liberal amount of sunscreen to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, and ears. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to often-overlooked areas, such as the lips, scalp, and the backs of your hands. Apply it to the tops of your feet if you’re going barefoot and the backs of your shoulders if you’re wearing a sleeveless top.
You should apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before going outdoors. If you plan to swim or get wet, you’ll need a water-resistant sunscreen.
It’s never too late to start using sunscreen regularly—it can prevent further damage and reduce your risk of cancer. Even if you forget every once in a while, making a regular habit of applying sunscreen can have a massive impact over time.
Continually Apply Sunscreen Throughout the Day
Despite popular opinion, sunscreen isn’t always a once-a-day routine. It should be reapplied at least every two hours, and immediately after swimming or sweating. UV radiation is strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM, so be extra vigilant about reapplication during these times of day.
If the idea of applying sunscreen more than once a day seems daunting, there are some things you can do to make it easier. For example, using a lip balm with SPF and a spray-on sunscreen for your scalp can improve coverage and speed up the application process.
Protect Your Skin with Clothing
One of your best friends in the fight for healthier skin is layers. Clothing can serve as a crucial barrier between your skin and the sun’s rays. Wearing things like long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats can provide additional protection from UV radiation.
Invest in sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB rays to protect your eyes and the delicate skin around them. Look into wearing clothing with a built-in ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating for added peace of mind, especially if you spend significant time outdoors.
Take Advantage of Shade
Seeking shade during peak sunlight hours can help reduce your exposure to harmful UV radiation. This can dramatically cut down on key risk factors.
When possible, choose a shady spot under a tree, umbrella, or other structure to protect yourself from the sun’s rays. While shade alone may not provide complete protection, it can help when used in combination with other measures like sunscreen and clothing.
Skip the Tanning Bed
As appealing as receiving an instant tan may be, data shows that tanning beds produce more negatives than positives. Tanning beds emit concentrated UV radiation, which can significantly increase your risk of developing skin cancer—including melanoma, one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.
To achieve a sun-kissed glow while reducing the risk associated with tanning beds and direct sun exposure, try using a self-tanning product or getting a spray tan. But be sure to continue applying sunscreen daily, as these alternatives don’t provide sun protection.
Perform Regular Skin Self-Exams
Performing regular skin self-exams can help you detect skin cancer early, when it’s most treatable. Once a month, examine your skin from head to toe. Look for any new or changing moles, spots, or growths. It’s a great idea to schedule an annual skin exam with a dermatologist, who can provide a more thorough evaluation and monitor any suspicious areas.
Research Risk Factors Based on Your Skin Type
Every person falls under a particular skin type, and there are risk factors associated with each one. Understanding your skin type and risk factors can help you take appropriate preventative measures.
For example, people with fair skin, light hair, and light eyes are at a higher risk for developing skin cancer. Genetic factors, such as a family history of skin cancer, and environmental factors, like excessive sun exposure, also play a role in determining your risk. It’s even more important to be proactive about sun protection if you fall into a high-risk category.
Practice A Healthy Diet & Lifestyle
A healthy diet and lifestyle can have a positive impact on your skin health and overall cancer risk. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, can help support your body’s natural defenses against skin cancer.
Regular exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of various types of cancer, including skin cancer. Even if you don’t maintain a perfect regimen, working towards a balanced diet and engaging in regular physical activity can be powerful steps in preventing skin cancer.
Stay Up-to-Date with New Research
Awareness and education are essential aspects of the fight against skin cancer. Stay up-to-date on the latest research and recommendations to protect yourself and your loved ones. Many people fail to practice life-saving skin cancer prevention techniques because they simply don’t know any better. Together, we can create a healthier, more sun-savvy society.
Take Extra Precautions if You Have a History of Skin Cancer
If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer, it’s especially important to be proactive about prevention. Be diligent about applying sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, and seeking shade whenever possible. Schedule regular skin exams with a dermatologist to monitor any changes and detect potential problems early.
Taking these extra precautions can help ensure that you stay healthy and minimize your risk of developing skin cancer in the future.
Contact Franks Dermatology Today
By following these tips for year-round skin cancer prevention, you can take charge of your skin health and reduce your risk of this common—but often preventable—disease.
Remember that consistency is key: making small, daily changes to your routine can have a significant impact on your skin health and overall well-being. Be sure to stay vigilant, protect your skin, and enjoy the sunshine in a responsible manner.
If you are looking for a partner in your journey to healthier skin, contact Franks Dermatology in Little Rock. Call (501) 246-1042 to schedule an appointment with our team of experts. We will work with you to determine your risk factors and help plan a personalized skin cancer prevention strategy.