May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the United States, with nearly 1 in 5 Americans developing it in the course of a lifetime. Every year about 2,200 Oregonians are diagnosed with Melanoma, and about 150 Oregonians die each year as a result of skin cancer. Even if you don’t feel the heat of the sun, which is common in Oregon, your body is still absorbing harmful UV rays. Regardless of the color of your skin, everyone should make proper sun protection part of their daily routine. Because skin cancer is strongly a lifestyle disease, there are many ways you can prevent it.
How can you prevent skin cancer?
Do not burn- Having 5 or more sunburns in your life doubles your risk of developing skin cancer. Avoiding the sun when the UV rays are strongest, usually between 10am and 4pm, will help you prevent sun overexposure, the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer.
Cover up- Sunscreen will only provide limited protection from harmful UV rays.Protect your skin even further by wearing bright or dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses with 99-100% UVA/UVB protection, whenever possible.
Use sunscreen- Generously apply a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on a daily basis, even during the winter or when the sky is cloudy. For the best protection, reapply sunscreen every two hours and after swimming or sweating.
Seek shade- If you have to be outside when the sun’s UV rays are most intense, seek shade to limit your exposure to harmful UV rays. If your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun’s UV rays are stronger, while if your shadow is taller than you, UV rays are typically less intense.
Pay attention to the UV index- When planning outdoor activities, watch the UV index to prevent overexposure to the sun. Most weather phone apps provide this. Visit this website to learn how to interpret the UV index scale.
Avoid sun tanning and tanning beds- In addition to causing skin damage and wrinkles, UV light from sun tanning and tanning beds increase your risk for skin cancer.
Get regular skin examinations- Be familiar with your own skin so you’ll notice changes in moles, freckles, bumps, and birthmarks. While you should still get an annual skin examination from a physician, self-exams offer the best chance of detecting early warning signs. Early detection can save your life.
VIDA offers several types of sun protection from Epionce, ZO Skin Health, SkinMedica. Come visit us and talk to one of our providers about which one is right for you.