Melanoma Awareness and Sun Safety Preparedness

Skin cancer is one of the most common forms of cancer, yet it’s easy to prevent when you practice healthy habits. In the United States, approximately 96,000 people die annually from melanoma, a serious form of skin cancer that can involve the lymph nodes and often spreads throughout the body. In the past three decades, the number of people diagnosed with melanoma has increased by around three percent. With an understanding of how the sun affects your health, you can greatly reduce your odds of developing skin cancer.

Many cases of melanoma, the most aggressive type of skin cancer, can be treated with surgery. The survival rate is fairly high in patients who are diagnosed in time, but melanoma still accounts for around one percent of all skin cancers that are diagnosed within the U.S. every year. Even one bad sunburn as a child can increase your chances of getting melanoma later in life. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to protect your health and prevent skin cancer. By being aware and practicing good sun safety, you can enjoy healthy skin and a healthy body.

Sun Exposure

  • Limit the amount of time you spend in the sun, and try to avoid being outside between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., which is when the sun is at its most powerful.
  • Apply sunscreen with a high SPF and a broad-spectrum formula any time you plan to be in the sun longer than 15 minutes. Reapply often, especially after swimming.
  • Get to know your skin and check it frequently for any unusual markings, changes in moles, or other new growths that could be cause for concern.
  • Choose cosmetics that contain sunscreen to get additional protection.
  • Seek shade when outdoors: Spend time under a tree or umbrella to reduce your chances of skin damage.
  • Drink plenty of water to keep your skin and organs hydrated while out in the sun.
  • You can get vitamin D without sun exposure: Taking supplements and drinking milk are safe, effective ways to get your daily vitamin D recommendation. If you do choose to go outside to get vitamin D, keep in mind that only 15 minutes of sun exposure is needed.

Clothing

  • Wear a large hat with a wide brim whenever you go outside to protect your scalp, neck, ears, and face.
  • Whenever possible, wear lightweight, light-colored clothing. Long-sleeve shirts and long pants are preferable.
  • Avoid wearing dark clothing when out in the sun. White clothing is preferred.
  • Wear a coverup when at the beach or pool after you’ve gone swimming to keep your body protected from the sun.
  • Wear sunglasses that offer UV protection whenever you are outdoors on a sunny day and while driving.
  • Look for special “sun safe” clothing that contains UV-blockers to help minimize the effects of sun exposure.

Indoor Tanning

  • Indoor tanning uses artificial lighting that can emit rays stronger than the sun. In fact, most tanning beds emit around 12 times more UV light than natural sunlight.
  • Studies show higher rates of melanoma in people who have used tanning beds.
  • Using indoor tanning beds causes an estimated 400,000 cases of skin cancer per year.
  • Indoor tanning is not recommended, but if you choose to use an indoor tanning bed, you should limit the frequency and length of use.
  • Tanning bed use can cause other problems, too, like wrinkling, premature aging of the skin, and sunspots.
  • People who tan indoors under the age of 30 have a 75 percent higher risk of melanoma.
  • There is no such thing as a safe indoor tanning session. Even one session can increase your risk of skin damage or skin cancer.

Learn More About Skin Cancer and Sun Safety

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