It’s fun to get out in the sun. But if you don’t practice good sun safety, you can end up with a painful sunburn today — and potentially wrinkles, sunspots, or skin cancer in the future. In fact, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. More than three million Americans are diagnosed with nonmelanoma skin cancers (like basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas) each year — and almost 100,000 people are diagnosed with melanoma, a more aggressive and potentially deadly form of skin cancer. But when it’s caught early — before it metastasizes (spreads throughout your body) — the five-year survival rate for melanoma is more than 99%.
The best way to catch skin cancer early is to check your skin regularly. Look for signs of melanoma, which include growths that are new, asymmetrical, large (bigger than the head of a pencil), contain multiple colors, or have irregular edges. You should also get a professional skin cancer check every one to two years. If you’ve ever had any type of skin cancer, your doctor may recommend that you get a professional skin cancer check more frequently.
While most skin cancer is treatable, it’s best to not to get it at all. Whenever possible, limit your time outside during the times of day when the sun is strongest (between 10 am and 4 pm). If you are outside, seek out shade — or create shade with umbrellas, a sun hat or visor, and sunglasses with both UVA and UVB protection. And most importantly, always wear sunscreen outside — even if it’s a cloudy day. Choose one that has an SPF of 30 or higher and provides both UVA and UVB protection. Reapply the sunscreen every 80 minutes if you are swimming or sweating heavily. Visit your local pharmacy for over-the-counter products that can help you stay safe in the sun.