During the summer, you and your family are probably spending a lot of time outdoors.
Before you head out for more fun in the sun, learn how you can stay protected against skin cancer by taking precautionary measures and staying alert to your body's changes.
Skin cancer is the most common cancer, accounting for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. Exposure to the sun's ultra violet radiation can increase your risk of developing skin cancer later on.
Here are some simple steps from the Medical Center of McKinney and the Skin Cancer Foundation to protect yourself and prevent skin cancer:
- Wear the right clothes: Light-colored, loose-fitting tops and bottoms with an SPF of 30 or higher; sunglasses that provide UV protection; and a wide-brimmed hat to protect the face, head and neck.
- Apply sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every 2 hours for optimum protection (or more after sweating or going in the pool). Use a lip balm containing sunscreen to protect the lips.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens should be used on babies over the age of six months.
- If possible, avoid direct sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. when the sun is the strongest.
- Avoid the use of artificial tanning beds.
Another great defense against skin cancer is the skin self-exam. When found in its early stages, melanoma skin cancer is almost always curable.
Learn how to perform a skin self-exam by following these steps from Medical Center of McKinney:
- The best time to do a SSE is after a shower or bath. Make sure the room is brightly lit.
- Look at your body -- front and back -- in the mirror. Lift your arms and check your left and right sides.
- Make sure you check your whole body thoroughly, not missing any areas.
- Become familiar with your body. Know where your moles, birthmarks, and blemishes are and what they usually look like.
- Bend your elbows and look carefully at your forearms, upper arms, and hands. Make sure to check the undersides of these areas as well.
- Look at the back and front of your legs and feet. Do not forget between your toes and the soles of your feet.
- Check your face, the front and back of your neck, and your scalp using a hand mirror. Part your hair for a closer look. Most people have a lot of trouble looking at their own scalp. Sharing this task with a friend or partner makes things easier. If your hair is long, using a hair dryer to blow it out of the way may make seeing the scalp easier.
- If you notice any changes or abnormalities, see your doctor right away.
When you do a skin self-exam, be particularly alert for new dark spots as these could be melanomas, Medical Center of McKinney advises. Melanomas are a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer that can be completely cured if found early and completely removed.
Most melanomas are brown, blue, black, or multi-colored with browns, reds, blues, and blacks, according to the Medical Center of McKinney. The majority of melanomas begin as flat colored patches, usually (but not always) with irregular borders. They may itch or bleed, but most melanomas cause no symptoms. Rarely, melanomas may lack color entirely. Some may grow as raised bumps. Melanomas can occur anywhere on the body, including the scalp, back, and feet where people may not look carefully enough. Look for asymmetric moles, moles with irregular borders, multicolored moles, and large moles. These are the most concerning, especially if they are evolving or changing.
For more information on skin cancer, prevention or performing a skin self-exam, contact the Medical Center of McKinney online or call 972-547-8000. To visit the Skin Cancer Foundation online, click here.