As many as 20% of Americans will experience skin cancer by the time they reach the age of 70. It’s the most common form of cancer in the United States, and in many cases, it may be preventable by protecting yourself from exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and other sources.
The doctors at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of skin cancer. You can turn to them when you have questions about any aspect of the cancerous conditions that affect the skin.
To help you reduce your risk of these questions arising, here are five ways you can prevent skin cancer from affecting you.
Know your enemy
Exposure to the UV components of sunlight and tanning beds is the single riskiest condition for developing skin cancer.
Though sunlight has beneficial properties, such as assisting the synthesis of vitamin D in your body as well as simply feeling good, an overdose of UV light — otherwise known as sunburn — can cause DNA in skin cells to break down, resulting in cancerous mutations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends limiting your unprotected time outside from 10am to 4 pm during Daylight Saving Time, and 9am to 3pm under Standard Time. UV rays are typically at their strongest during these hours.
Keep it shady
Choosing a shady spot on a hot day is a natural decision, but it’s just as good of an idea even on more temperate days. Trees, umbrellas, and awnings all make for good UV protection, but keep in mind that some UV rays can reflect, so you can’t rely on shade alone.
Make your pursuit of shade a year-round thing. Though you might not feel the sun’s warmth in the cooler months, UV light still bounces around. Watch for UV levels during weather updates, online or through the media.
Dressing for the temperature on a sunny day is tempting, but don’t count on a loose knit, light wrap to protect you from the sun.
The average T-shirt has a sun protection factor (SPF) under 15, and has even less protection when it’s wet. If you’re counting on clothes to help keep your UV exposure down, you may need to turn to fabrics that are counterintuitive for a sunny day.
Long sleeves and legs, tight weaves, and dark colors offer the best protection from UV, even though you may feel somewhat overdressed.
Hats and UV-rated sunglasses round off your sun-safe wardrobe.
Be sunscreen savvy
The higher the SPF, the stronger the protection. That’s the general sunscreen rule, but in a pinch, a sunscreen of any SPF value is better than none at all. Whenever possible, use broad spectrum products to address both UVA and UVB radiation.
Don’t treat sunscreen as a once-and-done thing. You’ll need another application in about two hours, or even sooner if you’re getting wet. Though any sunscreen should retain its effectiveness for a few years after purchase, be aware that sunscreen does expire over time.
While many skin cancers result from sun exposure, it’s possible to develop aggressive skin tumors in places that are never exposed to the sun. Regular medical screenings with your primary care provider, a dermatologist, or one of the specialists at Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates gives you an added layer of security.
If you note any unusual skin lesions, like fast-growing growths or irregular moles, contact Lawrence Otolaryngology Associates to follow up promptly. Call your nearest office — in Lawrence or Ottawa — to arrange your appointment or send the team a message here on the website.
Early detection is vital for successful treatment, so book today.