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5 Tips to Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer

Posted 07-23-2014 06:48 PM by ChristaIB
Updated 08-20-2014 08:40 PM by ChristaIB

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After the cold winter months, many people are thrilled to see the sun and take in its rays. Who can blame them? The fiery force provides warmth, gives our wintery pale skins color and helps our bodies produce vitamin D. But some people overexpose themselves to the sun, putting themselves at risk of being one of the more than 3.5 million Americans who develop skin cancer every year. Let this summer be a safe one; learn how you and your family can protect yourselves from skin cancer.

Tips to Reduce Your Risk for Skin Cancer

If you want to prevent skin cancer, you have to be proactive. This means doing the following:

1. Wearing Sunscreen

Most cases of skin cancer, particularly melanoma and squamous cell carcinoma, are caused by ultraviolet radiation. UV light is emitted from the sun, so itís important to protect your skin when youíre exposed to sunlight. One way is to wear board spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher, and to do so on a regular basis. Sunscreen should be worn daily on areas that are frequently exposed, like the face and arms. For best results, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside, then reapply it again every two hours. Sunscreen shouldnít be reserved only for days at the beach. And remember: Just because it doesnít look sunny outside doesnít mean you arenít being exposed to UV light. In fact, even if youíre in your car or indoors, a certain amount of UV light will likely penetrate the windows and find its way to your skin.

2. Wearing Protective Clothing

Wearing protective clothing while exposed to UV light can help reduce your risk of developing skin cancer. You can cover your body with comfortable and lightweight fabrics, broad-brimmed sunhats and UV-blocking sunglasses. You may even consider purchasing clothing especially engineered for UV light protection. Protective clothing is one of the most convenient ways to guard yourself from UV light, since adding a layer of sunscreen every day might be an expensive or easily forgotten task.

3. Avoiding the Sun during Certain Times of the Day

Itís important to avoid the sun when its rays are the strongest, if possible. This window of time is roughly from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. If you are out in the sun during this time, consider having an umbrella, parasol, or beach umbrella available for further protection. It goes without saying that steps one and two should also be factored in.

4. Avoiding or Reducing Time Spent in Tanning Beds

Tanning beds should be avoided, or at least significantly decreased in use, to help reduce your chance of developing skin cancer. Tanning beds are of particular risk because they emit UV rays in doses that are 12 times greater than the sun. Studies have shown that people who use tanning beds, especially before the age of 30, are 75 percent more likely to develop melanoma at some point in their lives. In general, people who indulge in this recreational habit are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma, and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell carcinoma, as well.

5. Avoiding Sunburn

It's no secret that many people like to get a good tan, but spending too much time in the sun can lead to sunburn. A sunburn may seem like a temporary discomfort, but its effects on your skin are long-lasting. If you notice that your skin is beginning to turn red, seek shade immediately.

6. Regularly Examining Your Skin

Self-examine your entire body--even your nails--on a regular basis to look for abnormalities. You should also have a skin cancer exam every year. However, if you notice the following, you should consult with your physician immediately:
  • Any spots or sores that crust, scab, bleed, erode, itch or hurt
  • If a skin growth, mole, beauty mark or brown spot is bigger than a pencil eraser, is asymmetrical, increases in size or thickness, or changes in texture or color.

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