When I was in high school, it was not uncommon for my friends to come on over to our house during the summer. We had a pool. We would put on our swim suits, get out the reflective pads, and slather baby oil all over. We did not use SPF anything. It was a summer cycle. Burn to a crisp, peel, and then start all over. We did not think about skin damage or skin cancer. And that was a very risky choice.
So what are your risks for skin cancer?
- Sunlight exposure: It is the number one risk factor for skin cancer.
- Severe, blistering sunburns: Anyone who has had severe sunburn, a burn that causes blistering, has higher risk.
- Lifetime sun exposure: The total amount of sun exposure over a lifetime increases your risk for skin cancer.
- Tanning: Tanning without the sunburn is still sun exposure, and increases risk.
How do I check my skin?
- Location: Know where your moles, scars and birthmarks are located. Note how they look and feel.
- Check for the new: Check for new moles that do not look like your other ones. Look for changes in color, size or feel. Watch for a sore that does not heal.
- Head to toe: The best time to check your skin is after a shower in a well-lit room. Check front to back and side to side — between your toes and fingers, in your hair and the soles of your feet. Every inch!
How do you protect yourself?
- Seek shade: Stay out of the sun during the midday when the UV rays are the strongest.
- Wear clothing: Cover up and keep the sun off of your skin.
- Hats: Wear a hat with a brim that keeps the sun off of your face, ears and neck.
- Sunscreen: Wear SPF 15 (at the very minimum) or above. Reapply after swimming or sweating. Throw out expired sunscreen.
I know that it's great to feel the sun on your skin, but that warm sensation is short lived, while damaged skin lasts a lifetime. If you want more information regarding skin cancer, please visit the Skin Cancer Center.