May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. Skin Cancer is the second most common cancer in young adults aged 15-34. It is also highly preventable and treatable (if detected early). With the summer sun beaming down, it is a great time to discuss ways to protect yourself and your family.
Just put on Sunscreen already
Yes it can be gloopy, messy and annoying to apply, but it will actually save your life. It also protects your delicate skin from the effects of sun damage and premature aging. The main issues that arise with sunscreen application is not applying enough, or not reapplying often. You need to use at least 1 ounce of sunscreen, enough to fill a shot glass, in order to cover exposed areas of the body. Remember to apply it to those areas many forget like your ears, back of the neck, hands and feet. It should be applied on overcast days too, not just when the sun is shining. Finish off with a hat to protect your scalp and sunglasses too. Now you are ready to take on the summer.
Check your body and keep a record of changes
One might assume that the signs of skin cancer are pretty obvious. They aren`t. Something as inconspicuous as a sore that doesn`t seem to heal, or a bump that is out of the ordinary can be cancerous. Examine existing moles or freckles and take note if they change. A good tip is to take a photo each year on your birthday, and compare the photos. Has it grown? Has the colour changed? If so, consult your doctor or a dermatologist to have it looked at. See a professional if something is out of the ordinary and have a full body examination annually if you have had issues in the past.
Stay out of the sun when you can
Those who work outdoors or enjoy outdoor activities should avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm when the UV Index is at its highest ( if possible) . Switch between sun and shade to prevent prolonged periods of exposure. Tanning beds should be avoided as well. In 2009, the World Health Organization designated tanning beds as “carcinogenic to humans.” Other carcinogens in this category include tobacco, arsenic and asbestos. If you absolutely need that summer glow, self- tanning products offer an alternative. With better application methods and a more natural colour, they have come a long way from turning you into some shade of Cheetos.
Know your risk factors
Those with light skin, hair, and eyes are at higher risk for skin cancer. As with many cancers, skin cancer has a genetic component. Those who have a family member who has been affected are at greater risk of developing it themselves. Other factors include sunburns in early years and prolonged sun exposure. It is important to note that skin cancer can affect anyone, even those with no risk factors. Being aware of your personal family history and taking steps to protect yourself will ensure you can enjoy the summer sunshine, without sacrificing your health.