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Protecting Your Skin From Skin Cancer All Year Long: Five Important Steps

Protecting Your Skin From Skin Cancer All Year Long: Five Important Steps

While the warm climate is one of things we all love about our Lone Star state, it’s also the source of many cases of skin cancer. Experts estimate that by the end of this year, 4,281 Texans will be diagnosed with melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.

At Choice Cancer Center, our team sees the effects of the southern sun on our patients’ skin: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. That’s why we’ve compiled this list of five easy steps you can take to protect your skin and avoid becoming a Texan statistic.

How the sun causes skin cancer

More than 80% of skin cancers develop as a direct result of overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation — sunlight. The sun’s UVB rays give you that bright red burn, and UVA rays penetrate to the deeper levels where it damages your cells and causes premature aging. 

Whether it’s hot or cold, sunny or cloudy, these invisible rays break through the atmosphere, hit your skin, and dive deep into your cells’ DNA. Over time, the accumulated DNA damage causes your cells to mutate, and voila, skin cancer.

How to protect your skin from skin cancer

Staying locked up inside with no sunlight at all is bad for your health (your body needs sunlight to make vitamin D) and to regulate your moods (long, sunless months can lead to seasonal affective disorder). 

The key is to have a healthy relationship with the sun, which means getting just enough exposure but not too much. Here are some practical tips to reduce your risk for skin cancer.

1. Always wear sunscreen

Every day, every time you go outside, even on gloomy days — wear sunscreen. But not just any sunscreen. 

Look for a broad-spectrum product that blocks out both UVA and UVB rays. 

Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30. 

Apply it every two hours on every exposed part of your body. Don’t forget your lips and scalp. 

Don’t trust labeling that promises to last longer than two hours or to withstand swimming and sweating — they don’t. In fact, if you swim or sweat, apply it even more often.

Check the expiration date. Over time, your sunscreen loses effectiveness, so if you’re still nursing a bottle from two years ago, toss it and buy a fresh one.

2. Avoid the sun

Staying out of the sun 100% of the time is not possible, nor is it recommended. What is recommended is staying out of the sun when it’s rays are most intense — between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Whenever you can, schedule your outdoor activities in the mornings and evenings, and do indoor activities when the sun is blazing.

3. Dress to protect

Sunscreen is great, but it doesn’t block out the harmful rays completely. If you plan to spend a long day in the sun and can’t find any shade, create your own by wearing long sleeves, long pants, and a wide-brimmed hat. 

Some clothing manufacturers even infuse their garments with UV protection to give you an extra layer of safety. Don’t forget sunglasses that block out UV rays!

4. Never use a tanning bed

Tanning beds do nothing but spew out beams of UV radiation that seeps down into your skin and attacks your cells and your DNA. You don’t even get the pleasure of the natural sunlight. You do, however, get accelerated aging, dry skin, wrinkles, dark spots, and skin cancer.

5. Check your skin and have it checked

One of the main characteristics of skin cancer is change, so it’s important for you to check your own skin regularly and report any new growths or changing tissues. Moles are particularly notorious for developing skin cancer, and there’s an easy pneumonic device to help you check your moles: ABCDE.

If you notice that your mole is asymmetrical, has an uneven border, changes colors or is two-tone, grows in diameter, or is evolving in any way, come see us for an evaluation.

In fact, come see us even if you don’t have any concerning spots or moles. By completing a comprehensive skin exam, we can establish a baseline for your skin health and help you monitor it in the future. 

If you develop skin cancer of any type, our expert team is here to help. We use the most advanced treatments to eradicate the cancer and get your skin back to a healthy state. To learn more or to set up a skin cancer screening, book an appointment online or call any of our Texas offices in Plano, Lewisville, Irving, Southlake, or Decatur.

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