Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, with more than one million cases diagnosed each year. “Skin cancer risk is partially predetermined through genetics and partially elevated by excess sun exposure and sun damage in early childhood through adulthood,” says Nancy Silverberg, MD, director of pediatric and adolescent dermatology at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York, N.Y.
Although you can’t control your genes, you can control the amount of UV light your skin is exposed to. “The No. 1 instigator of skin cancer in the United States is UV light, or exposure to the sun,” says Gregory Papadeas, DO, a board-certified dermatologist in the greater Denver area and past president of the Colorado Dermatological Society. In addition to sun exposure, be aware that you can be exposed to harmful UV light in tanning beds, too.
There are a number of ways you can protect yourself from developing skin cancer:
- Start sun protection early.
- If you have children, teach them about the importance of avoiding too much sun exposure and other forms of UV light at a young age. Dr. Papadeas says that we get the majority of our lifetime sun exposure before the age of 18.
- Avoid the “high” sun.
- Papadeas says that staying out of direct sunlight from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. can help reduce your risk of skin cancer, since the sun’s rays are the most intense during those hours.
- Always use sunscreen.
- Papadeas and Silverberg both recommend regularly using sunscreen when your skin is going to be exposed to the sun. Choose products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater.
- Reapply sunscreen regularly.
- Sunscreen wears off after about 80 minutes, so reapplying it is a must. “If you are going to be out all day — going golfing or going skiing — reapply it every one and a half to two hours,” Papadeas says.
- Wear protective clothing.
- In addition to using sunscreen, Papadeas and Silverberg recommend that people wear clothing that protects their skin from too much sun exposure. They also recommend sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim for further sun protection.
- Know your skin.
- You should regularly examine your skin and keep an eye on moles and any skin abnormalities. “It is important that people are familiar with their skin, and if anything changes in size, shape, or color, or you have a spot that is not healing properly, consult a dermatologist,” Papadeas advises.
- Recruit a partner.
- Papadeas suggests asking someone else, like your partner, a close friend, or family member, to examine your back and other areas you cannot see easily and let you know if anything looks suspicious. Then you can return the favor.
- Get an annual skin check-up if needed.
- Silverberg recommends that people have full body checks by a dermatologist to determine their risk of developing skin cancer. For people who are at increased risk for skin cancer, including those who have fair skin, a lot of moles or freckles, atypical moles, or a family history of skin cancer, Papadeas recommends a visit to the dermatologist for a skin evaluation once a year.
When taking steps to protect your skin from sun exposure, remember that you are exposed to UV light every time you are in the sun, not just when you are enjoying a day at the beach or by the pool. So be sure to take sun protection into account even just walking around outside.
This article republished from: EveryDayHealth.com. View the original article here.