Be "sun safe" when you are outside this summer. Not all melanomas can be prevented, but following these helpful tips from the American Cancer Society may help reduce your risk.
Texas Health News: Skin Cancer
An annual screening helps find skin cancers early. Follow this link to schedule one with a dermatologist on the medical staff of a Texas Health hospital.
Limit UV exposure The best way to lower the risk of melanoma is to limit your exposure to strong sunlight and other sources of UV light. Avoid being outdoors in sunlight too long, especially in the middle of the day when UV light is most intense.
Protect your skin with clothing Clothes vary in how much they can protect you. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts are the best. Dark colors are better than light colors. A tightly woven fabric protects better than loosely woven clothing. If you can see light through a fabric, UV rays can get through too. And dry clothing is better than wet clothing.
Wear a hat A hat with at least a 2- to 3-inch brim all around is good because it protects the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose, and scalp. A shade cap (which looks like a baseball cap with about 7 inches of fabric draping down the sides and back) is also good. These are often sold in sports and outdoor supply stores.
Use sunscreen Use sunscreen and lip balm. Many groups like the American Academy of Dermatology, recommend using products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more. Be sure to use enough — a palmful for your whole body. And put it on again every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days. For it to work best, sunscreen should be put on 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside.
Don't make the mistake of thinking that because you're using sunscreen, you can stay out in the sun longer. Sunscreen should not be used to gain extra time in the sun, because you will still end up with damage to your skin.
Wear sunglasses Wrap-around sunglasses that absorb at least 99 percent of the UV rays help protect your eyes and the skin around your eyes. Look for sunglasses labeled as blocking UVA and UVB light.
Stay in the shade Look for shade, especially in the middle of the day, between the hours of 10 a.m .and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are strongest. If you are not sure about how strong the sun is, use the shadow test: if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun's rays are the strongest, and you need to protect yourself. Keep in mind that sunlight (and UV rays) can come through clouds, reflect off water, sand, concrete, and snow, and can reach below the water's surface.
Avoid tanning beds and sunlamps: Don't use tanning beds or sun lamps because they can damage your skin. There is growing evidence that they may increase your risk of getting melanoma, especially if use started before the age of 30.
Protect children Be especially careful about sun protection for children. Children tend to spend more time outdoors and they burn more easily. Teach them to protect themselves from the sun as they get older. Babies younger than 6 months should be kept out of direct sunlight and protected from the sun using hats and clothing.