We’re on the verge of summer and that means lots of time outside in the sun. It’s no coincidence that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.
The most aggressive and deadly form of skin cancer is melanoma. Although a number of risk factors can contribute to melanoma, there’s a strong connection between the disease and excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation — sources like sunlight and tanning beds.
Here are a few simple tips for reducing your risk of developing melanoma and other kinds of skin cancer this summer: Limit your exposure to the midday sun whenever possible. Here’s how to remember: When your shadow is shorter than you are, take extra precautions to protect yourself from the sun.
If you must be outside, wear long sleeves, long pants, UV-blocking sunglasses, and a hat with a wide brim. It may be no fun at the beach, but it’s still the best way to lower your risk.
You can Protect your skin by using sunscreen lotion, cream or gel. The best ones offer “broad-spectrum coverage” and have a high sun-protection factor (SPF) number. The best SPF rating is 30 or higher.
Artificial sources of UV light such as tanning beds, booths and heat lamps are not safer than laying out in the sun. The American Cancer Society reports that regular tanning bed users under the age of 35 are eight times more likely to develop melanoma, and occasional users three times more likely, than their pale friends.
Being careful this summer is only the start of a smart cancer-prevention plan. That’s because signs of melanoma don’t necessarily show up right away. Skin cancer today could have been triggered by sun exposure years ago, or by factors completely unrelated to UV radiation.
For more information on skin cancer, including the physical and genetic attributes that can lead to greater risk and how to conduct a skin self-examination, please visit www.coh.org/Melanoma.