According to the National Cancer Institute, more than 68,000 Americans are diagnosed with melanoma each year. If you’ve already had any type of skin cancer, you’re at higher risk for developing it again. The best way to lower your risk of skin cancer is to stay out of the sun. While that seems like straightforward advice, it isn’t that simple to avoid the sun entirely. Unless you’re a vampire, try these preventative measures to lower your risk of skin cancer.
Try to stay out of the sun between 10 am and 4 pm. This is a huge chunk of the day, so it’s understandable that you’ll end up outdoors during some of that time. However, try not to schedule major outdoors activities like sports or lawn work when the sun is out during these peak times. When you’re outdoors during this time, seek shade when possible.
Wear sunscreen every day. Make a habit out of wearing sunscreen every day, rain or shine. This rule includes your children and spouse. According to the FTC, an SPF of 15 or higher is fine for most people. If you are very fair skinned or you’re outdoors sweating or in the water, you may need to use a higher SPF. Remember to reapply and use as suggested.
Wear protective clothing. When you arm yourself with protective clothing, you keep the sun’s rays from damaging your skin and increasing your risk of skin cancer. When outdoors in the sun, wear sunglasses and a hat. Consider special UV-protective clothing for time spent swimming and playing sports outside. This can be especially useful for kids who don’t cooperate with sunscreen.
Check your skin regularly. Be aware of the look and feel of your skin. Every few months, check your body for irregular moles or discolorations. If you have a hard time remembering what your moles and other marks look like, try taking a picture with your cell phone or a digital camera. Check any changes in mole size or color against the pictures.
See your doctor for exams. While it helps to do a self-exam for developing skin cancer, nothing compares to a screening with your doctor or dermatologist. Depending on your risk factors, including whether or not you’ve had irregular moles or skin cancer in the past, you should see your doctor at anywhere from every two years to twice a year.