Did you know that May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month? Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and is also one of the most preventable cancers according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It often begins as an unusual, uncontrolled growth on the skin.

Anyone can get skin cancer, but it is more common among people with light or fair skin color. Specific risk factors depend on the type of skin cancer. The most common risk factors include:

  • Exposure to sunlight or ultraviolet radiation from tanning booths
  • Frequent blistering sunburns, especially early in life
  • Having 50 or more moles
  • A personal history of skin cancer
  • Possible genetic factors (such as family history or mutations in certain genes)
  • History of radiation therapy
  • Exposure to high levels of arsenic

With summer just around the corner, your risk of developing skin cancer becomes even higher. While it may be tempting to spend more hours out in the sun, be sure to take necessary measures to protect yourself from harmful rays.

Here are five ways you can protect your skin from the sun this summer.

Seek Shade
The sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. If you like being outdoors during those hours, find a place out of the sun, like beneath a tree or even a beach umbrella to protect yourself from the direct sunlight.

Cover Up
Find clothing that covers up the most sensitive skin areas, like your chest and shoulders. Be sure to include lightweight long-sleeved shirts, wide brimmed hats, and sunglasses in your summer wardrobe.

Wear SPF 15+ or higher
Apply sunscreen of an SPF of 15 or higher every day, even if you aren’t going outside often. For days with prolonged outdoor activity, use an SPF of 30 or higher and re-apply every two hours, especially after swimming or sweating. Don’t forget important areas like the backs of your hands and tops of your feet, and wear lip balm that has an SPF as well.

Avoid Tanning Beds
Indoor tanning can be just as dangerous as tanning in the sun. Tanning beds expose your skin to ultraviolet light that can lead to skin cancer and premature aging. Additionally, people who go to tanning beds at a younger age have a higher chance of developing melanoma. If your summer goal is to look tan, consider safer alternatives like self-tanning products or spray tans.

Once a month, perform a head-to-toe self-examination of your skin to look for any changes. By doing this regularly, you will be able to familiarize yourself with what is and is not normal for your skin and track any marks of concern.

Talk with your healthcare provider if you notice changes or anything unusual on your skin, or if you have a sore or patch of skin that won’t heal. Follow the ABCDEs of skin cancer as a guide:

  • Asymmetry: The shape of one half of the mole does not match the other half.
  • Border: The edges are often tagged, blurred, or irregular in outline.
  • Color: The color is uneven. Shades of black, brown, and tan may be present. Areas of white, grey, red, pink, or blue also may be visible.
  • Diameter: There is a change in size—usually an increase.
  • Evolving: Changes in size, shape, color, or elevation, or any symptoms such as bleeding, itching, or crusting.

If you are living with skin cancer or are a caregiver to someone with skin cancer, the Cancer Support Community offers a variety of resources to help ease the burden of your journey. Please contact us at 805-238-4411 or visit our website at www.cscslo.org or stop by our office located at 1051 Las Tablas Road in Templeton for more information.