As the days get longer, and the weather gets warmer, we will all be spending more time outside. But before we head out into the sunshine, we need to consider our skin cancer risk.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer; more skin cancers are diagnosed in America each year than all other types of cancer combined. The odds of developing skin cancer rise as you age; according to the Skin Cancer Foundation, between 40-50% of Americans who live to age 65 will have at least one skin cancer episode. Many older adults think that there's no point in continuing to protect themselves since the damage has been done, but it's never too late to help preven further damage and lower the risk of skin cancer! Here are some tips:
- stay out of the sun, especially between 10am and 4pm
- wear protective clothing - you can buy clothes with built-in SPF (sun protection factor) or use a laundry additive like sun guard to add SPF to the clothes you already own
- wear a broad-brimmed hat to shade your face and sunglasses to protect your eyes
- avoid tanning beds - they are just as damaging as the sun
- wear sunscreen daily, even if it's cloudy or you are going to be in the car - harmful rays can penetrate clouds and glass
Additionally, it is important to choose the right sunscreen and use plenty of it. Look for a broad-spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. The American Cancer Society recommends the sunscreen you use should have an SPF of at least 30. Reapply it every 2 hours - more often if you are swimming or sweating. Apply generously, you should use an ounce (about a palm-full) to cover your arms, legs, neck and face. While anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is higher if you have fair skin, freckles, a family history of skin cancer, have had a lot of sunburns, or take medications that increase your sensitivity to light.