Skin Cancer Awareness Month: How to Reduce Your Risk

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s a good time for everyone to review and learn about what causes skin cancer and how to prevent it. At Arlington Dermatology, we can partner with you this month to help you enjoy healthy skin for many years to come. Here’s what to know about skin cancer and how to reduce your risk.

Wear Sunscreen

Skin cancer is caused by UV rays, and sunscreen is the most effective way to prevent UV rays from damaging your skin. Sunscreen should have a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher and should be designated as “broad-spectrum,” meaning it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. There are generally two types of sunscreen (chemical or mineral) and each has its benefits. In order to get the most protection out of your sunscreen, apply it daily at least 15 minutes before you go outside. Make sure to reapply every two hours (sooner if you sweat or go in water).

Wear Sun Protective Clothing

Sun protective clothing is the next layer of protection after sunscreen. Sun protective clothing includes long-sleeved shirts, pants, and close-toed shoes that are made from tightly woven or even specialized UV-protective fabrics. Sun protective clothing can help block UV rays and stop sunlight from passing through it. Keep in mind that certain clothing like light, airy, or wet items won’t offer much protection and you should still wear sunscreen according to best practices. Make sure to also wear items like a wide-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your face and eyes.

Seek Shade

Shade does not block all UV rays, but it can be an additional layer of protection, especially if you plan to be outside for long periods of time. Shade from a tree or building can block some UV rays and provide relief from sunlight. It may also be helpful to bring a large umbrella or awning if you plan to spend time at the beach or campground. Don’t rely on shade to block UV damage, though – make sure to still apply sunscreen and wear protective clothing, too.

Avoid Sunlight at Peak Times

The intensity of the sun’s UV rays changes throughout the day. In fact, between 10am and 4pm (or the middle part of the day) it’s best to avoid going into the sun during these times. UV intensity can also vary based on factors like the time of year, elevation, and whether you’re near water, snow, or sand. To avoid heightened levels of radiation, consider scheduling your outdoor activities earlier or later in the day.

Stop and Avoid Tanning

Tanning and tanning beds are one of the most proven causes of skin cancer. The fact is, tanning exposes you to extremely high levels of UV damage all at once and can significantly increase your risk of melanomas, basal cell carcinomas, and squamous cell carcinomas – it can also cause premature aging and many other cosmetic skin concerns. If you use tanning beds or tan outdoors, stop immediately. If you’ve never used a tanning bed or tanned outdoors, avoid it.

Schedule an Appointment

This month, we encourage everyone to meet with a board-certified dermatologist for a skin cancer screening and to learn more about the risks. During an appointment, we can help you explore the best ways to protect your skin including selecting the right sunscreen for your needs. We offer the leading physician-grade skincare brands and this month, you can buy 2 and get a free travel size EltaMD sunscreen! Contact us today to learn more and set up an appointment with our team.

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