Melanoma – Know How to Protect Yourself
Skin cancer is one of the most common form of all cancers. Though accounting for less than 5% of all skin cancers, melanoma is the most serious form of skin cancer responsible for the majority of skin cancer attributed deaths.
The American Cancer Society estimates that there will be approximately 80,000 new melanomas diagnosed in 2013 with incidence rates on the rise for the last 30 years. This year, almost 9,000 people are expected to die of melanoma. It is well established that early detection and treatment of melanoma are essential for the best outcome.
This is the last Melanoma Monday of May – Melanoma Awareness Month. In the previous weeks, we have reviewed what melanoma is; how to determine your risk; how to get to know your skin and do self-checks and now, finally we are going to give you some quick tips on how to protect yourself! UV exposure is of the most common reasons that people get melanoma. Luckily, it is also the easiest to control. It just takes some knowledge and a few new habits called “sun-smarts”.
Make a commitment to be sun-smart and also pass these important habits on to your friends, family and children!
- Apply sunscreen before you go into the sun. Chemical sunscreens need time to be absorbed into the skin to work. So they require a head start of about 20 minutes.
- Don’t have 20 minutes? Use zinc oxide if you need immediate sun protection. Both zinc and titanium dioxide are minerals that block the sun’s UV rays, so they work faster than chemical sunscreen ingredients, which must be absorbed to work.
- Put it on first. It is best to get it right on your clean, dry skin – you can add a moisturizer after if needed.
- Lay it on thick. Use a tablespoon of sunscreen on your face and about two ounces for your body. Unless you slather on a thick layer, you’re probably just getting an SPF 10 out of your SPF 30.
- Sprays go on thin. Do one coat and then a second coat after it is dry to be sure you have enough layered on. It’s OK to use more than you think you should.
- Reapply sunscreen every 90 minutes. Many sunscreens become ineffective when exposed to sunlight for extended amounts of time. Ironic, isn’t it? That means it simply stops working after about 90 minutes, like mouthwash. So reapply often. And of course, reapply sunscreen as soon as you get done swimming, toweling off, or sweating heavily.
- Use sunscreen daily and year round. The majority of sun exposure is incidental, meaning you get it walking to your house or through your office or car window. In addition, did you know that clouds allow up to 80% of UV rays through? And snow reflects OVER 5 TIMES the amount of harmful UV as dry beach sand. Get in the habit of using an SPF 30+, broad-spectrum (covers UVA/UVB) lotion on all the exposed areas of your skin, including on your lips, the tips of your ears, and the back of your hands and neck – EVERY DAY. EVERY SEASON.
- If possible, avoid midday sun. Between 10 am to 4 pm is when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Schedule outdoor activities before 10 am or after 4 pm.
- Wear protective clothing. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, long sleeved shirts and long pants that are tightly woven or photo-protective.
- Don’t forget your eyes. Sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays are important to protect your eyes which are also susceptible to melanoma.
- Avoid tanning beds. This should be a no-brainer, but people still think this is a safe way to tan. THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A SAFE TAN! It is well-established by the World Health Organization that there is a direct link with tanning beds and melanoma. Opt for a spray tan, gradual tan lotion or better yet … let your natural glow shine!