When the sun shines in Michigan, it’s natural to want to soak in every moment of those wonderful rays. But when enjoying the great outdoors, don’t forget to protect your skin. Darkened skin color from the sun (or a tanning booth) not only accelerates the effects of aging, but also increases your risk of skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the U.S.
The risk for skin cancer is highest for individuals who have fair or freckled skin, light eyes and blonde or red hair. Other risk factors include: having a family or personal history of skin cancer; working in an outdoor job; residing in a sunny climate; cumulative sun exposure; and having a history of severe sun-burns and an abundance of large, abnormally shaped moles.
Know Your ABCDEs
The most recognizable sign of skin cancer is a change on the skin, usually a new mole or skin lesion, or change in an existing mole. That’s why knowing your ABCDEs is important. Skin cancer is much more treatable if it’s found early. The best way to detect skin cancer in its earliest stages is by having your health care provider check your skin, as well as doing regular self-exams.
Safeguard Your Skin
Here are some simple rules to safeguard your skin:
- Remember, a little sun exposure can be good for you, as it’s an ideal way to soak up vitamin D. How long you should stay in the sun depends on a number of factors, such as your skin type, the time of year and the time of day. If you are lighter-skinned, a short period of time in the sun without sun-screen means about 10 to 15 minutes (less than the time it takes you to start turning red or burn).
- Keep babies younger than 6-months-old out of direct sunlight (as sunscreen is not recommended for children this age).
- Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 to exposed skin. Broad spectrum means the sunscreen will safeguard your skin from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Re-apply your sunscreen about every two hours, as well as after swimming or sweating. While some health, consumer and environmental groups have raised concerns over certain sunscreen ingredients, experts still conclude the risks of not protecting your skin with sunscreen are much greater than using sunscreen. That said, the American Cancer Society recommends buying and using sunscreens sold and marketed in the U.S.
- Whenever possible, dress yourself and your children in cool, comfortable clothing that covers the body.
- Wear hats with an all-around brim.
- Limit your sun exposure between 10 am and 4 pm, when UV rays are strongest.
- Don’t overlook your eyes. Wear sunglasses with at least 99 percent UV protection. (Look for child-sized sunglasses with UV protection for your kids.)
- Skip the tanning beds and sunlamps. Using indoor tanning beds before age 35 can raise your risk of melanoma by 59 percent.