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Be sun safe as you head outdoors

American Academy of Dermatology offers hints for protecting your skin during Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

4 Min Read
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May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month. As you spend more time outdoors, the American Academy of Dermatology Association offers five tips to protect your skin:

  • Seek shade. Remember the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

  • Wear clothing that protects you from the sun. Wear a lightweight long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection when possible. For even more protection, select clothing with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) number on the label.

  • Apply sunscreen. Apply a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher to all skin not covered by clothing. Remember to reapply every two hours after swimming or sweating.

  • Use extra caution when near water, snow and sand, as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.

  • Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from tanning beds can cause skin cancer and premature skin aging. Consider using a self-tanning product if you want to look tan, but continue to use sunscreen with it.

Since skin cancer is highly treatable when detected early. The AAD encourages people to perform regular skin self-exams using the ABCDEs of melanoma. If you notice any new spots on your skin, spots that are different from others or spots that are changing, itching or bleeding, contact a dermatologist.

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Melanoma causes the most deaths among all types of skin cancer, according to the CDC.

Here's four facts about skin cancer:

  • One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.

  • Nearly 20 Americans die from melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, every day.

  • In 2017, 85,686 people were diagnosed in the United States were diagnosed with melanoma and 8,056 people died of melanoma.

  • More than two-thirds of melanomas are diagnosed among adults age 55 or older.

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Select the right sunscreen

A study published in JAMA Dermatology says that fewer than half of the patients at a dermatology clinic knew the meaning of terms like "broad spectrum" and "SPF."

Broad spectrum sunscreen can protect you from the sun's ultraviolet A and ultraviolet B rays. Ultraviolet A rays cause aging and ultraviolet B rays cause burning. Protecting your skin from these rays will help prevent skin cancer, premature age spots, wrinkles, sagging skin and sunburn.

SPF measures how well a sunscreen protects you from sunburn. Think of SPF as the sunburn protection factor. The number that follows SPF tells you how much UVB light the sunscreen can filter out. SPF 15 can filter out 93% of the sun's UVB rays while SPF 30 can filter out 97% of the sun's UVB rays. The AAD recommends using an SPF 30 or higher.

There is no such thing as waterproof sunscreen. Sweat and water wash sunscreen from our skin. Some sunscreens are water resistant, though. Water resistant sunscreen will stay on wet skin for 40 minutes. Very water-resistant sunscreen is effective for 80 minutes in the water. Even if your skin remains dry while using water-resistant sunscreen, you'll need to reapply the sunscreen every two hours.

Learn more about how to read sunscreen labels from the AAD.

Skin cancer develops in people of all ages and races. Be sure to check your eyelids, scalp, groin, feet, lips and hands for spots. If you see a spot that is changing, itching or bleeding, see a dermatologist.

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