Exposure to the sun’s rays can cause damage to your skin both in the short and long term. Sun damage can cause premature aging, freckles, and has been linked to skin cancer. Therefore, it is important to always take care of your skin and protect it. Did you know that every blistering sunburn increases your chances of developing melanoma? It’s never too early to protect your skin and help your children learn about skin protection, too.
Basic Prevention for Sun Exposure
Protecting your skin from sun exposure doesn’t mean you should stay indoors all the time, you can still enjoy beach days and going to the park if you take a few steps:
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays. Check the label to make sure your sunscreen protects from both types of rays.
- A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. Tanning lotions and oils generally are not good because they usually only have an SPF 5 or none at all.
- Apply a full ounce (enough to fill the palm of your hand) of sunscreen every 90 minutes while outside.
- Choose a water-resistant sunscreen that will last longer.
- Apply sunscreen before you go outside or get in the water so it doesn’t wear off immediately.
- Use sunscreen even on cloudy days. The clouds block the brightness of the sun, not the harmful UV rays.
Sun Screen Essentials
Not all sunscreens are created equal. Spray sunscreens seem easy to apply, but they still need to be rubbed in. The FDA requires that sunscreen bottles only say “water-resistant” because no sunscreen is truly waterproof. Most important is to choose a sunscreen that protects you from UVA and UVB rays.
UVA rays penetrate deep into the skin and cause aging, while UVB rays are the ones that affect the surface layers of the skin and cause you to burn. Only protecting against one of these means you are still leaving your skin exposed to harmful radiation. Both these types of UV rays contribute to the cumulative damage to your skin and can lead to skin cancer.
Early Detection is as Easy as ABCDE
Skin cancer comes in many forms and individuals should learn to check themselves regularly for new or growing spots, or bleeding and scabs that will not heal. Most types of skin cancer can be caught early and treated effectively if you use the ABCDE guidelines when examining your body:
- Asymmetry– Is one half a different shape or size than the other?
- Border Irregularity – Is the border consistent or is it irregular or poorly defined.
- Color variation and/or change – varied from one area to another; shades of tan and brown, black; sometimes white, red or blue.
- Diameter more than 6 mm (pencil eraser size) and/or change in diameter.
- Evolving – a mole or skin lesion that looks different from the rest or is changing in size, shape or color.
New, rapidly changing spots on your skin need to be looked at by your doctor as soon as possible.
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