Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the United States, with one in five Americans expected to develop a form of skin cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, there are simple steps people can take to reduce their skin cancer risk.
"The easiest way to prevent skin cancer is to protect your skin with clothing," said board-certified dermatologist Zoe D. Draelos, MD, FAAD, consulting professor at Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, N.C. "Keep a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses near your door so you can put them on before you go outside. Wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants also can help protect from the damaging rays of the sun."
In addition, Dr. Draelos shares these additional tips for preventing skin cancer:
1. Apply sunscreen every day. When you are going to be outside, even on cloudy days, apply sunscreen to all skin that will not be covered by clothing. Reapply approximately every two hours, or after swimming or sweating. Use a broad- spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen that protects the skin against both UVA and UVB rays and that has an SPF of at least 30.
2. Use one ounce of sunscreen, an amount that is about equal to the size of your palm. Thoroughly rub the product into the skin. Don't forget the top of your feet, your neck, ears, and the top of your head.
3. Seek shade. Remember that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, seek shade.
4. Use extra caution near water, sand or snow as they reflect and intensify the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chances of sunburn.
5. Get vitamin D safely. Eat a healthy diet that includes foods naturally rich in vitamin D, or take vitamin D supplements. Do not seek the sun.
6. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it. Don't use tanning beds. Just like the sun, UV light from tanning beds can cause wrinkling and age spots and can lead to skin cancer.
7. Check your skin for signs of skin cancer. Your birthday is a great time to check your birthday suit. Checking your skin and knowing your moles are key to detecting skin cancer in its earliest, most treatable stages.
"It's critically important for people to see their board-certified dermatologist if they notice a mole or skin lesion that is changing, growing or bleeding," said Dr. Draelos. "Skin cancer can be easily treated if detected early."
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