Friday, September 21, 2018 12:01 PM

Prevent Skin Cancer Before It Starts

With an average of 270 days of sun each year in the Central Valley, preventing sun damage and lowering your risk of skin cancer is especially important.

Although there are other causes, exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight or tanning lamps increases your risk of developing skin cancer - and one of the most aggressive and deadly forms: melanoma. How? A tan is a sign that your skin has been damaged. The more that your skin is damaged, the faster your skin ages and your risk for all types of skin cancer increases.

For nearly three decades, experts have been telling us to use sunscreen to protect ourselves from skin damage. But which sunscreen should you use and how often?

Sunscreen guidelines to protect yourself from skin cancer

  • Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day.
  • For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
  • Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside.
  • Reapply every one to two hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
  • Sunscreen should be used on babies older than six months. 

Other ways to avoid skin damage

Sunscreen alone isn’t always enough. Here are some more sun-safe and skin-safe behaviors to lower your chances of melanoma and other skin cancers:
  • Seek shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Do not burn
  • Avoid tanning and never use UV tanning beds
  • Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses
  • Keep newborns out of the sun
  • Use extra precaution when near water, snow and sand. These surfaces reflect sunrays and can increase your chances of a sun burn – even when wearing protective hats 

Protecting yourself from harmful UV rays is essential to preventing skin cancer. Take extra precautions for the littlest family members, as newborns and young children have extra-sensitive skin that is easily damaged.
For more information on how to protect yourself from skin cancer, visit the National Cancer Institute.

Watch this MedWatch Today segment for more tips to recognize and prevent melanoma: