As you enjoy these last hot days of summer, remember to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the harmful ultraviolet light of the sun. Reducing risk begins with increasing awareness.
Although we may admire a lovely tan, the reality is that burning and tanning are the skin's way of trying to defend itself from UV radiation. Pale skin is more vulnerable, but people of all skin colors and types need protection from the sun's rays. Also keep in mind that proper UV protection is important for all age groups. Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S., yet there are many ways that it can be prevented.
When outdoors for an extended period of time, reapply sunscreen every two hours (SPF 15 or higher for body, SPF 30 or higher for face). Don't forget the small areas, such as your lips, ears, or the part in your hair. Do this even if you're not swimming because sunscreen can easily be sweated off the skin. Wear a wide-brimmed hat, UV-resistant sunglasses, and garments that cover your skin, and stay in the shade when possible.
Such precautions are well worth the trouble when you consider that treatment of even the most benign form of skin cancer—basal cell—often involves surgery. Squamous cell skin cancer is highly curable but can be deadly if not treated. Melanoma is more serious and can cause death. Like any cancer, melanoma can spread, but if it's caught early, treatment is highly effective.
Doctors recommend that you check your skin frequently for the A-B-C-D-E's: Keep a close eye on any moles to see if they (A) are asymmetrical, (B) have borders that are scalloped or jagged, (C) have uneven coloring, (D) have a diameter bigger than a pea, or (E) are evolving. Speak with a doctor if any of the A-B-C-D-E's are of concern or if you notice any changes in your skin.
Harmful UV rays not only contribute to the development of skin cancer but also can increase the risk of eye problems, age spots, leathery skin, wrinkles, and even a weakened immune system.
Show the largest organ of your body the respect it deserves by monitoring its health carefully. Make this a summer to remember, and remember to protect your skin.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Skin Care Foundation, Federal Occupational Health, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.