Enjoying longer and sunnier days outdoors means your skin is vulnerable to sunburn. Experts at Yale Cancer Center (YCC) and Yale School of Medicine (YSM) say unless you take the right precautions, sun exposure (even if you don't get scorched) can damage your skin, causing wrinkles, age spots, and even skin cancer. Just one sunburn during your youth doubles your chances of developing melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer.
“Since skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States—one in five people will be diagnosed with it in their lifetime—it’s important to practice sun safety before heading outdoors,” said Michael Girardi, director of the Phototherapy Unit at YCC and professor of dermatology at YSM. “There is concern that rates of melanoma have been steadily rising over the last 30 years.”
YCC and YSM skin cancer experts say these tips can help you avoid sun damage and reduce your chances of getting skin cancer:
# Generously apply high SPF sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen (SPF 30 or greater) every day. Be sure it hasn’t expired and reapply every two hours as well as after swimming or sweating. And apply everywhere on your body, not just your face and upper arms.
# Seal your lips from the sun’s rays. Lip balms, glosses and sticks often contain SPF ingredients. Opaque lipsticks contain pigments that help block harmful rays, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. More opaque formulas protect better.
# Create some shade. Clothing made of tightly woven fabric with a high ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) rating can create a physical barrier that protects your skin from the sun. Long sleeves or pants, sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim will also help shade you.
# Avoid peak sun hours. The sun is most damaging to the skin between 10 am and 2 pm, so plan your outdoor activities before or after the sun is at its strongest.
# Check yourself out. Using a full-length mirror, scan your skin for spots that look suspicious (unusually shaped moles that are changing shape or are black, red or pink in color) and tell your physician. If you've previously had skin cancer, you should be checked annually by a dermatologist.