Tips for Preventing Skin Cancer
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Fortunately, most cases are highly curable when caught early, which is why spreading awareness about it is so important. This May during Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month, take some time to educate yourself and your loved ones about what to look for and how to decrease your risk. Here are some tips to get started:
- Wear the right sunscreen. Opt for at least SPF 30 and choose a sunscreen with UVA and UVB protection. Be sure to use water-resistant sunscreen at the beach or pool (or if you'll be sweating) and reapply every two hours. Note that sunscreens are no longer allowed to have “waterproof” labels because it's misleading, according to the American Cancer Society. And most sunscreen lasts two to three years, so toss out your old sunscreen from summers gone by.
- Put sunscreen on before you get dressed. Have you ever had a massive sunburn around your swimsuit line? To prevent it, put sunscreen on while you’re naked. Plus, if you wait until you’re already in the sun to apply sunscreen, you won’t have immediate protection. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends applying 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to your body at least 30 minutes before going outside. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen on your ears, feet and lips. Nowadays, there’s a sunscreen for everything—even your eyes!
- Check your feet and other hard-to-see areas. Check your entire body each month for signs of changing moles, and meet with a dermatologist at least once a year to have all of your moles examined. When doing self-exams, be sure to check head to toe including between your toes and on the bottom of your feet, as these are often missed places. Also ask a family member or friend to check the top of your head each month. Make a doctor’s appointment if any if your moles show ABCDE signs: asymmetry; irregular borders; non-uniform color; diameter larger than 6mm; and evolving shape, size or color. Also inform your doctor if you have new symptoms on the mole such as itching, crusting or bleeding.
- Buy the right sunglasses. Don't just assume your sunglasses provide UV protection. According to the American Cancer Society, glasses with labels that say “UV absorption up to 400 nm” or “Meets ANSI UV Requirements” block at least 99% of UV rays. "Cosmetic” block about 70% of UV rays, and those with no label at all may or may not offer UV protection.
- Follow a Mediterranean diet. Sunscreen and early detection are vital in preventing skin cancer. But research also points to the importance of following a diet rich in fruits (especially citrus), leafy greens, olive oil and fish, according to Fitness magazine. Despite frequently being in the sun, people in the Mediterranean—where these foods are commonly consumed—are less likely to get melanoma than Americans. Although research is preliminary, Fitness magazine says, an Italian study found that the Mediterranean diet cut melanoma risk by 50 percent.
How do you protect yourself from skin cancer? Share your tips below.