Seven tips to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer

April 29, 2021

​May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. As you head outdoors to enjoy fresh air and warmer weather, take steps to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer — and don’t forget the sunscreen.

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. It affects people of all races and skin tones. Even if you never sunburn, you can get skin cancer. The good news is if found early, most skin cancers, including melanoma, can be cured. There also are things you can do to reduce your risk.

Follow these tips from the American Academy of Dermatology to protect your skin from sun damage and reduce your risk of skin cancer:

  1. Seek shade when appropriate. Shade is one of the best ways to protect your skin from the sun's harmful rays. If you can't find shade, make your own using an umbrella, canopy, or the hood of a baby stroller. Keep in mind the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
  2. Use sunscreen whenever you're going to be outdoors. Apply enough sunscreen to cover all skin not covered by clothing, even on cloudy days. Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher for protection from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. And don't forget to apply to your neck and ears, as well as the tops of your feet and the top of your head.
  3. Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. Use extra caution near water as it reflects the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
  4. Wear protective clothing, such as a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection, when possible. For more effective sun protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) label.
  5. Get vitamin D safely. Eat a healthy diet that includes foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D, such as milk, salmon, tuna, and dark greens, or take vitamin D supplements. Do not seek the sun as a source of vitamin D.
  6. Don't use tanning beds. Just like the sun, ultraviolet light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product but be sure to continue using sunscreen with it.
  7. Perform regular skin self-exams to detect skin cancer early when it's most treatable. Your birthday is a good time to check your birthday suit. If you notice any new or suspicious spots on your skin, or if anything is changing, growing, itching, or bleeding, see your doctor or dermatologist right away.

Know the signs

To learn how to perform a skin self-exam and how to recognize suspicious spots or growths, check out the resources box. And remember, early detection is key.

Source: American Academy of Dermatology