Last week, we told you about a young woman who shared her graphic battle with skin cancer with the world. We brought you up to speed on the dangerous realities of tanning beds and the harm they can cause your skin. This week, we’re taking a look at some of the best ways to prevent skin cancer as part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Melanoma/Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month.
Skin cancer is a preventable cancer, meaning lifestyle and behavior changes, diet and exercise can impact your chances of developing this disease. Here are some of your best bets in the lifestyle and diet departments to keep your skin cancer-free.
Sunscreen: Just like you wear your seatbelt while driving a car, you should wear sunscreen when you’re outside. In 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration created new rules for sunscreen sold over the counter, making sure all sunscreens meet current effectiveness and safety standards. In addition to using a quality sunscreen, the keys to staying protected are to reapply your sunscreen every two hours or after sweating or swimming and to use the right amount. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends one ounce of sunscreen — about the size of your palm. And remember, no sunscreen is really waterproof; water and sweat will wash the protection away.
Shade and cover: It’s best to avoid sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the rays are at their peak. A good rule of thumb: if your shadow is shorter than you are, it’s time to find a shady spot. In addition to sunscreen protection, covering up with loose-fitting clothing can help keep the harmful rays at bay. Wear long sleeved shirts, pants, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes.
Healthy tanning: An oxymoron! There is really no “healthy” tan from the sun or a tanning bed. If you think tan looks good on you, use a self-tanner to achieve the results you want. But don’t think because your skin is darker that it’s safe to be in the sun. You’ll still need to use sunscreen, even with a self-tanner.
Vital vitamin D: How can the sun be bad if it infuses your body with vitamins? There are easier and safer ways to get your vitamin D than sun exposure. Fish like tuna and salmon are rich in vitamin D, and foods like eggs, mushrooms and cheese also contain the vitamin. Vitamin D supplements are also a good bet.
Check yourself: You know your body better than anyone. Take time to scan your skin for any signs of skin cancer. Keep an eye out for any new moles or spots on your skin, and take note of any color, shape or diameter changes that may indicate melanoma. If you’re not sure about a mole, ask your doctor for their opinion.