Memorial Day is right around the corner, and the weather’s finally getting warmer. Between backyard barbecues and pool openings, we’re all likely spending a lot more time outside. And because it’s not boiling hot yet, you may be tempted to spend time outside without the proper protection.
Big mistake! According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, more than 5 million cases of skin cancer are diagnosed each year, making it the most common cancer in the country! That’s one reason why the Skin Cancer Foundation is promoting Skin Cancer Awareness Month in May. The goal, as you might imagine, is to promote awareness of the dangers of sun exposure and the importance of “safe sun habits”.
What are they and how can you protect yourself? Here are our tips for staying safe from the sun when you’re enjoying the outdoors.
What are the dangers of sun exposure?
There are two broad types of skin cancer: Nonmelanoma and melanoma. Nonmelanoma is the broad category of skin cancers, while melanoma specifically refers to cancers that begin in the skin cells that produce melanin (the pigment responsible for skin color). A shocking 90 percent of nonmelanoma and 85 percent of melanoma skin cancers are related to sun exposure. Luckily, if recognized early enough, skin cancer is highly treatable, but if left unchecked it can spread cancer to many other areas of the body.
What type of sunscreen is best?
This will greatly depend on how much time you spend outdoors, but generally speaking sunscreens that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 15 is sufficient for normal every day activities while sunscreens rated at SPF 30 or higher is best for prolonged outdoor activities.
What other ways should I protect myself?
Aside from putting on sunscreen, there are a number of things that are important to protect yourself. These include:
- Seeking out shade as much as possible
- Avoid getting sunburned
- Cover up with clothing if possible
- Wear a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
- Remember to reapply sunscreen if you go swimming or do activities that cause excessive sweating
- Avoid tanning beds
What about getting enough Vitamin D?
This is certainly an important consideration, as we need sunlight to produce this essential vitamin. Luckily, protecting yourself with the above methods will not result in a Vitamin D deficiency. Additionally, the benefits of protecting yourself from developing skin cancer far outweigh the potential downsides of a deficiency, which can always be compensated for using supplements.
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