Summer days are best spent outdoors, but considering melanoma is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. — 5 million new cases are diagnosed each year — there’s never been a better reason to slather on SPF. To help raise awareness about this preventable form of cancer, May has been designated as Melanoma Awareness Month. So, before you put on your bikini and head to the beach, let’s revisit the sun-safe habits you should adopt each and every time you’re outdoors.
Timing Is Everything
The sun’s rays are most dangerous between the hours of 10am and 4pm, so stay in the shade if you can. But since that may not always be an option, it’s crucial to protect yourself from damaging UVA and UVB rays with these simple steps.
The Art Of Product Application
Apply a generous amount of broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30. Use a water-resistant formula with an SPF of 30 or higher for extended outdoor activity or swimming. Cover all exposed areas of skin before heading outside — the amount may vary depending upon what type of clothing you’re wearing. Don’t forget areas such as hands, tops of feet, and back of the neck. Reapply every two hours or immediately after excessive sweating or swimming. Sunscreen should never be used on infants younger than six months, so it’s best to keep them out of the sun altogether.
Don’t forget to wear a wide-brimmed hat, UV-blocking sunglasses, and clothing with maximum coverage when possible. For extensive periods outdoors, in the water, or participating in a sport or activity, consider investing in a few pieces of SPF protective clothing.
Cloudy Days Are Just As Important
Even if it’s overcast, there’s no such thing as a sunless day. With that in mind, you should still be wearing SPF since you’re still exposed to up to 80% of the sun’s dangerous rays.
Conduct A Monthly Self-Exam
If detected and removed early, skin cancer can be curable. Once a month, give yourself a head-to-toe examination. You’ll need a full-length mirror, a hand mirror, and two chairs/stools in order to effectively check every nook and cranny, to include easy to forget places like between fingers and toes, under nails, the scalp, under arms, lips, mouth, front and back of ears, and under breasts. If you detect anything suspicious (new or changing lesions), see your doctor right away. Regardless, it’s a good idea to get a full skin exam by a dermatologist once a year.