May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. If you’re not already, it’s time to think of your skin first when out in the warm springtime weather.
The sun has a way of beckoning us — whether it’s to the beach, camping or just to our backyard for barbecues or gardening. But before you head out of the house, think about the sun’s effect on your skin.
Skin cancer affects one in five Americans in their lifetime — making it the most common cancer and one of the only you can prevent — but with simple preparation and effort to avoid the damaging effects of UV rays, you can keep your skin looking young and damage-free.
Know your SPF and how to apply it.
The two types of UV radiation, UVA and UVB, damage the skin, age it prematurely and increase your risk of skin cancer. By applying sunscreen, you help prevent the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation from reaching the skin. James Harris, MD, Oncologist at Renown Regional Medical Center, recommends applying at least a 30 SPF every two hours to protect your skin against harmful rays. Also, he says they should be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow ingredients to bind to the skin. “When it comes to applying SPF, breaking the rules isn’t worth it,” warns Dr. Harris. “The effects are damaged skin — wrinkles, blemishes and possible skin cancer.”
Make sure your Sun Protection Factor (SPF) hasn’t expired by checking the label and only purchase broad-spectrum sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. And if you are a beach or a water-lover, you will need to use a stronger, water-resistant sunscreen and should apply 1 ounce –– about a shot glass full — every two hours and immediately after swimming, toweling off or sweating. Remember: Re-applying is just as important!
If you’re not sure if you’re sunscreen meets the highest standards for safety and effectiveness, search for the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Seal of Recommendation, which guarantees those with the highest standards for safety and effectiveness.
Stock your sun protection in convenient locations.
Plan ahead for your sunny activities and prepare accordingly. For example, if your weekend will include yard work, include a wide brimmed hat with your gardening supplies to protect your face, neck and scalp. Also, place sunscreen inside the hat to reminder you to lather it on before heading out.
Also, prepare a to-go bag for outings that includes SPF 30+ and lip balm, a hat, sunglasses and a watch to remind you to re-apply. You may also want to leave a wide-brimmed umbrella in your car and keep sunscreen in your purse.
Wear Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) clothing.
If outdoor activities are more frequent than not, consider outfitting yourself in sun protective clothing from apparel companies such as REI or Patagonia. Sun protective clothing is specifically designed for sun exposure and is produced from a fabric rated for its level or ultraviolet (UV) protection and often includes long sleeves and full-length pants and skirts.
By following these simple prevention guidelines, you can not only lower your risk of developing skin cancer, you will help keep your skin healthy and younger looking, longer.