With skin cancer being the most diagnosed cancer in the United States than all other cancers combined, it’s important to take extra precautions to keep our skin healthy and UV-exposure safe.
There are three main types of UV rays: UVA, UVB and UVC. So it’s good to know your UABCs. Here are the basics:
• UVA rays can cause damage to skin cells and DNA. UVA rays are commonly associated with causing wrinkles, aging of the skin and some cancers.
• UVB rays can cause more damage to the skin than UVA rays. UVB rays cause direct damage to the skin and are the main cause for sunburns. They are believed to cause most skin cancers.
• UVC rays have more energy in them than any other UV rays. However, they are not located within our atmosphere or sunlight. UVC normally aren’t associated with causing skin cancer.
In order to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays, follow these tips:
• Avoid being in direct sunlight when possible between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
• Wear protective clothing. Wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants, hats and sunglasses will keep your skin and eyes from being harmed. You also can get clothing that has a sun protection factor (SPF). But even if you are wearing regular clothing, make smart choices. Straw hats, for instance, will not provide much protection from the sun.
• Apply and re-apply sunscreen. SPF 30 or higher is the recommended strength to get when buying sunscreen. Buying waterproof will also keep it from sweating off when outdoors. You still need to re-apply it every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
• Avoid tanning beds. Tanning beds give off a large amount of UVA rays and can increase skin cancer risks and premature aging.
According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, a tan is a sign that your skin has been injured. Whether the tan was from exposure of UV rays from a tanning bed or the sun, every time your skin tans, it’s a result of being harmed. Increase harm to your skin can cause premature aging and increase risk for skin cancers.
Being aware of what the beginning stages of skin cancer may look like can help avoid spreading, making it much easier to treat. Conducting your own skin check once a month is also recommended. Use a hand held and full-length mirror to look at areas that are hard to see in a well-lit room.
The American Cancer Society suggests using the “ABCDE rule” to look for some common signs of melanoma, which is considered to be one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer.
• Asymmetry: A benign mole is generally symmetrical; a malignant mole will have one side that doesn’t match the other.
• Border: The edges are irregular, ragged, notched or blurred.
• Color: The color is not the same all over and may include shades of brown, black, sometimes with patches of pink, red, white or blue.
• Diameter: The spot is larger than one-fourth inch across—about the size of a pencil or eraser.
• Evolving: The mole is changing in size, shape or color.
If you have any concerns about moles or spots you’ve found on your body, we recommend setting up an appointment with your dermatologist as soon as possible. It also doesn’t hurt to just get checked out by a dermatologist, because we can’t easily see all parts of our body.
Have a great summer! And remember that making the effort to sun safely will pay great dividends in the future.