In recognition of Skin Cancer Awareness Month, the last blog post provided information—and alarming statistics—on the prevalence of skin cancer, which is the most common form of cancer in the United States. In fact, an estimated one in 50 Americans will develop skin cancer during his or her lifetime. Limiting exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays is the first line of defense against skin cancer.
Of course, many are aware of how important it is to apply (and reapply) sunscreen during a vacation on the beach, while fishing, or during any type of outdoor activity. But what about the daily sun exposure experienced every day during regular activities such as working in the garden, walking the dog, making minor home repairs, playing with the kids or even just going to the mailbox? Over time, these “small” amounts of exposure add up and can increase your risk of developing skin cancer, so it is important to plan your outdoor day-to-day activities during a time when the sun’s rays are at their weakest, which is mainly during the early morning before 10 a.m. or early evening after 5 p.m.
The sun’s rays are usually the strongest during the middle of the day, and are particularly stronger between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Therefore, if you have to be out and performing activities during this time, carry a sun umbrella, try to work in the shade, and wear a wide-brimmed hat that will provide protection for your face and the back of your neck.
Every sunburn increases the risk of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. If you have had five or more sunburns during your lifetime, your risk doubles. For this reason, try to break up long periods of time spent in the sun. Look for alternative activities such as enjoying the beach at sunset instead of in the middle of the day. Be aware of how your skin looks and feels. If your skin starts to redden, take cover and spend some time in the shade.
If you do not have a yearly skin cancer screening, we strongly urge you to visit one of our internal medicine physicians who will be happy to not only conduct a screening, but to discuss a plan of action to help you reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.