May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month — and for good reason. This time of year is typically the turning point for a lot of people in terms of spending time outside.
It’s that time of year when people shed off those jackets and boots and trade them in for short-sleeves and flip-flops. They pick more tables outside at restaurants and make more time for quick mid-afternoon strolls outside.
And while those are perfectly normal and acceptable actions to take to enjoy the warmer weather, it is important to know the risks that accompany that type of unprotected sun exposure.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, 90 percent of non-melanoma cases and 85 percent of melanoma cases are associated with exposure to UV radiation from the sun. By the same token, a person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he/she has five or more sunburns in his/her lifetime.
So what steps can you take to protect your skin and enjoy this beautiful new season outdoors?
The first step you can take is to invest in a solid sunscreen that you can use on a regular basis. When looking for a sunscreen, you should look for ones that are broad spectrum, SPF 30 or higher and water resistant. The broad spectrum will protect your skin from harmful UVA and UVB rays, while the higher SPF gives you better protection and the water resistance will allow it to last longer.
The next step is to seek the shade as often as possible, especially during peak sun hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. A good rule of thumb is, if your shadow is shorter than you are, then the sun’s harmful UV radiation is at its peak and you should stay in the shade.
If there’s no shade to be found, consider covering up your skin a bit more. Throw on a wide-brimmed hat to help cover your face or cover your arms with a lightweight cardigan. Look for UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes, because those can get burnt from the sun, too. The more of your body you are able to cover, the better.
Finally, you should perform monthly skin exams on yourself in addition to the regular skin exams you schedule every year with your dermatologist. If you ever notice a new mole that looks irregular or see any changes to an existing mole, see your dermatologist immediately.
Ready to get checked out? Schedule a skin exam with Charleston Dermatology today!