Skin cancer is a serious medical condition that affects 3.5 million Americans every year. While some skin cancer is genetic, 90 percent of all skin cancer can be prevented by reducing exposure to harmful UV rays from the sun. From tanning bed usage to inadequate sun protection while at the beach, there are numerous steps you can take to reduce your risk of skin cancer and other sun-related damage.
While sun damage is possible whenever the sun is out, exposure is at its peak between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.. During these hours, the harmful UVB rays are most powerful as they are absorbed into the skin. While many people believe that sunny days are the only time they should limit sun exposure, serious sun damage can also occur on cloudy days. In fact, the clouds often refract the sun’s rays in a way that maximizes the intensity and thus the likelihood of sun damage. Outdoor activities that take place during these peak hours should be done in the shade when possible, or limited to a certain period of time to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
Sunscreen is the best and easiest way to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Sunscreens are rated in terms of Sun Protection Factor, a measurement which indicates the degree to which the sun’s harmful rays are filtered out. SPF 15 sunscreen allows only one-fifteenth of the sun’s rays to penetrate the skin, while SPF 50 blocks out all but one-fiftieth. The higher the SPF protection, the longer the effects of the sunscreen last, while the lower the protection, the more it is necessary to reapply.
By avoiding tanning beds, you can eliminate the biggest determining factor in the development of skin cancer. Regular tanning bed usage increases your risk of melanoma by an astounding 75 percent. The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that the use of tanning equipment is even more closely linked to skin cancer than smoking is to lung cancer. Reduce your risk of skin cancer by limiting sun exposure to necessary outdoor activities with the use of sun protection.
Certain areas of the body are more vulnerable to sun damage than others, and thus to the development of skin cancers such as basal and squamous cell carcinomas. The top of the nose and ears are steadily exposed to the sun’s rays due to their position, yet many people neglect to protect them with sunscreen and proper apparel. By simply wearing a brimmed hat when engaging in outdoor activities, you can significantly reduce this risk. The bottoms of the feet and the back of the hands are also frequently overlooked spots that receive more than their share of sun radiation.
Regular dermatology check-ups are by far one of the most important steps you can take to reduce your risk of skin cancer. Dermatologists are trained to notice the signs of developing skin cancer anywhere on the body. It is important to receive regular check-ups as skin blemishes that were once benign often turn into a more serious problem with sun exposure and the aging process. A yearly visit to your dermatologist’s office is not only essential for skin cancer prevention, early diagnosis and treatment, but for your peace of mind as well.