Spending time outdoors enjoying the summer sun is one of the best parts of the summertime. However, the sun's rays can be incredibly damaging to our skin, causing sunburn in the short term and skin cancer in the long run. Both UVA (those with a longer wavelength) and UVB rays (those with a shorter wavelength) are proven to contribute to the development of cancers like basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
1. Wear Sunscreen
Protecting your skin with broad spectrum sunscreen is one of the best ways to minimize sun damage to your skin. 'Broad spectrum' means that it protects your skin against both UVA and UVB rays. Any time you go outside, you should apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 to any areas of exposed skin. You should also reapply your sunscreen at least every two hours.
2. Avoid Tanning Beds
Indoor tanning to get ready for your vacation may be tempting, but it should be avoided completely. There is a myth that tanning beds are safer than direct sunlight, but this is not true. In fact, some studies have shown that the UVA rays in tanning beds put you at an even higher risk of developing some skin cancers.
3. Check the UV Index
Before venturing outside, you should check the UV index. This is a tool that forecasts the risk of being overexposed to UV radiation. Along with the UV index comes recommendations for staying safe while outdoors. You can find the UV forecast for your area on most weather channels and websites.
4. Wear Sun Protective Clothing
In addition to using sunscreen, you should protect your skin with clothing. Wide-brimmed hats, long sleeves, and long pants in breathable fabrics are often great choices to wear in the summer. However, you can also purchase clothing that is specially made to block UV radiation from reaching your skin.
5. Wear Sunglasses
In addition to protecting your eyes from sun damage, sunglasses protect the skin around your eyes from UV radiation. This area is often neglected when applying sunscreen, but is still sensitive and susceptible to skin cancer.
6. Perform Regular Self Exams
In the summer, and all year round, it is a good idea to perform regular skin self exams. Check over your entire body. Pay close attention to areas that get the most sun, like the face, neck, and arms. Look for any new, expanding, or discolored marks on your skin, such as moles, birthmarks, bumps, and blemishes.
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If you do find something that looks concerning, see a dermatologist right away. The dermatological team at Premier Medical Associates would be happy to address your concerns.
No matter your age or race, it is important to take precautions to protect yourself from the sun. Anyone can develop skin cancer, and everyone deserves to be safe!