Over the past 31 years, more people have had skin cancer than all other cancers combined. Perhaps even more alarming– 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer in the course of a lifetime. The main cause of skin cancer is exposure to UV radiation from the sun. With summer heat at its peak and because July is UV Safety Month, we’ve put together some tips to help you stay safe(r) when in the sun.
There’s No Such Thing as a Safe Tan
A recent article appearing in HealthDay confirms what those around the medical field have known for quite some time– there is no such thing as a safe tan. During summer months attendance at tanning salons skyrockets with people attempting to achieve a golden “base tan” to build on throughout the summer. But the notion of a base tan being a safe and affective way to achieve a bronze summer glow is simply false. “Tanning beds have become a particular hazard. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified the devices as within its highest cancer risk category — basically as potentially carcinogenic as cigarettes,” the article notes. And as Dr. James Spencer, a member of the American Academy of Dermatology board of directors adds, “The bottom line is excessive UV exposure increases your risk of skin cancer, whether you are indoors or outdoors.” So if you’re seeking a golden bronze glow, stay away from the tanning salon and if anything, take a step into your local pharmacy or grocery story where you can purchase temporary and topical bronzing creams and lotions.
Protect Yourself – “Slip! Slop! Slap! And Wrap!”
The American Cancer Society has a cool awareness campaign around UV safety to help you keep top of mind 4 easy steps you can take to protect yourself from damaging UV rays.
- Slip on a shirt
- Slop on sunscreen
- Slap on a hat
- Wrap on sunglasses
These 4 simple steps will help keep you protected from harmful UV radiation.
Check your skin regularly (at least monthly) for growth of new moles and changes to existing ones. New moles, moles that have changed in color or texture (i.e. darken or become raised), moles thath ave grown and changed in size, and sores that won’t heal are all changes you’ll want to keep track of and possibly have checked by your doctor. The National Cancer Institute has some great resources and advice on how to check your skin for potentially harmful developments.
Avoid the Obvious
A little common sense will go a long way when it comes to UV safety. Avoid prolonged exposure to the sun, particularly during peak hours (10am-4pm) and as you read above, stay away from tanning beds. When possible, it’s also a good idea to avoid prolonged exposure to the sun when near water, snow, or sand, all of which reflect the sun’s rays and can increase chances of burning.
Know Your Skin Cancer Risk
Any person can get skin cancer, but the risk is higher for groups of people with lighter coloring. In general, if you have blond or red hair, blue or green eyes, and white or light-colored skin with freckles, you may be at a higher risk for developing skin cancer. Furthermore, if you have a family history of skin cancer, are frequently exposed to the sun via work and/or play, or have a history of sunburns or regular indoor tanning, you could also be at a higher risk. For help assessing your risk for skin cancer, check out the CDC’s information on skin cancer risk factors.
What else? Did we miss anything? What do you do to stay sun safe and how do you encourage your friends and family to do the same? Let us know in the comments below!