For many, there's nothing more enjoyable than baring a bit of skin and soaking up some rays. It can elevate your mood and boost the necessary vitamin D levels. Yet, too much exposure to the sun's powerful UV rays can damage your skin and increase your risk of skin cancer.
As the most common type of cancer in our country by far, the statistics on skin cancer are sobering. Some 9,500 Americans are diagnosed with some form of the disease daily. One in five people, or 20% of the U.S. population, can expect to be diagnosed with skin cancer at some point in their lives.
While people with darker skin tones absorb these harmful rays better than those with lighter complexions, the absorbed radiation can still cause harm. In fact, skin cancers among African Americans are potentially more dangerous since they’re harder to spot in their earlier stages.
Skin cancer may be startlingly common, but fortunately, it’s also highly preventable. Whether you spent only an hour or so per day outdoors or you're a total sun worshipper, skin protection is essential. Dr. Pinkas Lebovits of Park Plaza Dermatology in Midtown Manhattan, New York, offers the following essential steps to help you minimize the risk of developing skin cancer.
1. Apply sunscreen
Incorporating sunscreen into your daily routine is among the easiest and most effective ways to reduce your skin cancer risk. For cloudy days or when you don’t plan to spend much time outside, a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher should be sufficient for exposed skin.
When you plan to be outdoors for several hours or longer, use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Make sure too that it’s water-resistant if you’re at the beach, in the pool, or sweating.
Also make sure that you use enough lotion to cover all areas of exposed skin, including your face, neck, ears, hands, and the tops of your feet if you’re wearing sandals. It's vital too that you reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.
2. Find shade
Another simple way to reduce your contact with harmful UV rays is to stay in the shade whenever possible. This is particularly crucial during the mid-day hours — or between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. — when the sunlight is most direct.
Staying in the shade won't completely eliminate your exposure, though. Some UV light still reaches your skin, which is why, any time you plan to be outdoors for a significant amount of time, it’s important to wear sunscreen or protective clothing.
3. Keep covered
For those who do not like sunscreen, you can still get optimal protection by wearing clothes that provide complete skin coverage.
Choose lightweight long-sleeve shirts, long pants or skirts, and a wide-brimmed hat. Tightly woven fabrics are best, but better yet, you can also buy clothes that are SPF-rated for optimal protection.
4. Wear sunglasses
Protect your eyes and the skin around them, including your eyelids, with oversized or wraparound-style sunglasses with lenses that provide 100% protection against UV radiation, including UVA and UVB light rays. Sun hats are helpful too,
While prescription sunglasses provide the highest level of protection, OTC sunglasses can work too. Only buy ones that are clearly labeled as 100% UV-rated.
5. Get an annual your skin check
No matter how meticulous you apply sunscreen, cover your skin, and avoid the strong midday sun, it's crucial that you check your skin's monthly self-skin checks and have a professional preventive skin cancer screening annually.
In examining your own skin, pay special attention to any scaly patches, dome-shaped growths, or unchanging sores. The ABCDEs of atypical moles, or those that are more likely to become cancerous, are:
- Asymmetry: one half doesn’t match the other
- Border: Irregular or indistinct borders
- Color: Shade variations within a single growth
- Diameter: Bigger than a pencil eraser
- Evolution: Distinct changes in shape, size, or color
Early detection is paramount to effective skin cancer removal and treatment, and a professional checkup provides your most accurate assessment. If you’ve ever had a sunburn or spent your summers tanning, an annual skin check / screening from a board-certified dermatologist is essential.
To schedule an appointment today by calling the practice at 212-757-7010, or using the online booking tool.