The sun is shining, the weather is warm, and everyone is ready for some fun in the sun. But before you enjoy the sun- filled days ahead, brush up on your sun safety and how to best protect against skin cancer. Use these 3 tips:
KNOW YOUR SUNSCREENS
Not all sunscreens are created equal. Check the sun protection factor or SPF, which protects against the UVB rays that cause sunburn. A sunscreen with SPF 15 filters out 93 percent of UVB rays; SPF 100 filters out about 99 percent of UVB rays.
Apply sunscreen liberally, using about one ounce, and reapply every two hours. If you’re sweating or swimming, you may need to reapply more often; read the label for instructions. Check the label for the expiration date, too. Sunscreen that has been sitting around in a bathroom cabinet may no longer provide effective protection.
In addition to wearing sunscreen, consider clothing, including bathing suits, made of sun-protective fabrics. The labels will tout their UV protection factor or UPF, which uses a scale from 15 to 50 (and sometimes higher) to show how much protection the fabric provides from the sun’s rays. Or, choose clothing like lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants that cover the skin.
A wide-brimmed hat is another sun essential. The skin on your ears, forehead, nose and scalp are often exposed to intense sun; a hat prevents UV rays from hitting these sensitive areas. Sunglasses, especially those that block UV light, offer even more protection. Its also important to seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. for the most protection.
KNOW THE ABCDE’S OF MELANOMA
Melanomas have some common characteristics that can help you identify warning signs:
- A—ASYMMETRY Symmetrical growths or moles are usually harmless, but if you notice that one side does not match the other, this could be a warning sign.
- B—BORDERS Most normal moles have smooth even borders. But the border of a melanoma is likely to be uneven, scalloped or notched.
- C—COLOR Normal moles tend to be a single shade of brown. Those with a variety of colors—brown, black, tan or even white, pink, red or blue—could signal cancer.
- D—DIAMETER Melanomas are often larger in size than benign moles. Growths are usually larger than the eraser on the end of a pencil, though they may be smaller at first.
- E—EVOLVING When a mole starts to evolve or change in depth, color or size could be sign of malignancy. Itching, bleeding, or crusting may also signal trouble.
If you note any of these warning signs, be sure to see a doctor. Keep in mind that not all melanomas fit these characteristics. Be alert to any lesion that just doesn’t look right, and do a thorough check of your own skin once a month. Seeing a dermatologist once a year for a routine skin check also helps to identify any potential problems.