Skin cancer is incredibly common. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by the age of 70. Simply having five or more bad sunburns doubles your risk of getting melanoma. But the good news is that if it's detected early, there is a five-year, 99 percent survival rate. Skin cancer awareness puts you on the right track to reducing your chances.
It's never too late to start identifying your skin cancer risk factors and practicing sun safety. All you have to do is follow a few simple steps, including the following, to reduce your risk of skin cancer.
1. Wear Sunscreen Every Day
The most obvious and effective way to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer is to make sure you wear sunscreen every day. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, sunscreen reduces the risk of squamous cell carcinoma, the second most common form of skin cancer, by about 40 percent. It's also proven to lower your risk of melanoma by 50 percent.
Sunscreen is easy to incorporate into your routine. First, you'll want to look for sun care products with SPF. The number following SPF indicates how long it would take the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays to redden your skin in comparison to not having any sun protection. For example, a sunscreen with SPF 30 means that it would take 30 times longer for you to get a sunburn than if you were not wearing any sunscreen at all.
Opt for a sunscreen that offers broad-spectrum protection, which protects against both UVB and UVA rays. If you're outdoors a lot, SPF 30 and a water-resistant formula like the EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ is the way to go. You'll also want to reapply sunscreen every two hours or right after you swim or sweat profusely.
2. Choose Sun-Protective Clothing
When looking to reduce your skin cancer risk, you can't overlook clothing choices. Take some time to pick out sun-conscious clothes that you can wear comfortably when outdoors and under the sun. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing long sleeves and pants in a light, breathable fabric (so you don't overheat) as well as a wide-brimmed hat to cover your face, head, ears, and neck.
3. Seek Shade
While this seems obvious, it doesn't hurt to mention that you should seek shade from the sun's harmful UV rays when possible. Try to stay out of the sun or wear a higher SPF at peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). This is when the sun's rays are the strongest and most likely to cause damage.
4. Visit Your Dermatologist
You can—and should—check your own body for any suspicious moles or new markings on the skin, but nothing beats a professional in-office evaluation. A board-certified Dermatologist can correctly diagnose any precancerous and cancerous lesions and help you navigate a treatment plan. Visit your Dermatologist at least once a year to get your entire body checked, and conduct self-exams of your skin at least once a month.
5. Avoid Indoor Tanning
You might think tanning with tanning beds is safer than sunning yourself, but it carries many of the same risks. Tanning beds darken your skin through UVA and UVB radiation. The US Food And Drug Administration reports that both these types of radiation can increase your risk of skin cancer. A review by the International Agency Research on Cancer adds that indoor tanning is linked to squamous cell carcinoma, melanoma, and ocular melanoma. If you want to get some color, you're better off with a spray tan.
There's power to knowing how to reduce the risk of getting skin cancer and putting that knowledge into practice. Remember that sun safety won't feel like a chore when you find a sun care product that you—and your skin—love.