Protecting Yourself From Skin Cancer

The month of May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so we thought we’d provide you with a little background and incentive to protect yourself because, unfortunately, skin cancer numbers are still staggeringly high.

Let’s start with the fact that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, with more than five million cases reported each year in the United States. Although any diagnosis of cancer is one too many, there are ways to greatly reduce your risk of skin cancer.

As a dermatologist, Dr. Melanie Adams has helped many of her patients in Columbia, Maryland, deal with skin cancer, a service she’d rather not provide if she can help it. Instead, she wants to team up with her patients to prevent skin cancer in the first place.

Here’s what Dr. Adams recommends to help you avoid a skin cancer diagnosis.

Here comes the sun

There’s no bigger enemy in modern medicine than cancer, which can be extremely difficult to battle since many cancers develop with no warning. But there are some cancers for which a clear cause-and-effect has been established, and most skin and lung cancers fall into this category.

Of the skin cancers that are diagnosed each year, 90% of non-melanoma cancers and 85% of melanoma cancers are tied to exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which are numbers that are hard to argue.

We all need some sun exposure in our lives, which helps boost vitamin D levels, keeping our bones strong and healthy. And, let’s face it, a little sun on our faces after a rainy day or a long winter does wonders for our mental health.

The trick is knowing when the benefits of the sun’s rays turn from helpful to harmful, and that window isn’t very big at all.

Too much of a good thing

Any direct exposure that’s longer than 15 or 30 minutes is one that can start to damage and break down your skin if it’s unprotected. So, having your morning cup of coffee outside on the patio is usually just fine, but anything longer warrants a few easy protective measures.

The best way to protect yourself against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays is to either avoid them or cover up. The first solution is often highly impractical and, quite frankly, we want you to get outside and enjoy yourself.

So, if you’re heading out, there are two ways to protect yourself:

Cover up

When you see pictures of people who live in the desert with long, loose robes and headscarves, this is one example we should follow since they deal with more sun than most everyone else on the planet. Wearing loose clothing that covers your skin allows you to regulate the heat and protect yourself from the sun at the same time.

A wide-brimmed hat, or even a baseball cap, can shield your face, and long-sleeved shirts and pants offer the same type of protection. Any trip to your local outdoor store offers up a huge variety of fashionable clothing that provides full UV protection.

If you’re out with a great sundress on, take another page out of the desert dwellers’ books and carry a scarf that you can throw over your shoulders if you’re in direct sunlight.

Providing a screen

The other formidable tool in the fight against the sun’s harmful UV rays is sunscreen. Though the thought of slathering on sunscreen may seem like a daunting chore every time you head out, the options in sunscreen make it easier than ever to protect yourself.

For example, many faces, necks, and body creams and lotions offer built-in sun protection factor (SPF) protection of 15 to 30, meaning your daily skincare routine can include sun protection without adding a step.

As well, new spray-on sunscreens take the effort (and time) out of rubbing in sunscreen and potentially missing key areas. Armed with a spray can that offers 30 SPF or more, you can ensure you’re covered with an invisible layer of protection from head to toe.

A four-season effort

Our last point is one that’s well worth remembering: Even on cloudy or wintry days, the sun’s UV rays can have an effect on your skin. Remember that the sun’s rays, whether they’re filtered or weaker, can still cause damage to your skin and lead to skin cancer, at any time of year.

If you’d like to avoid becoming one of the more than five million people diagnosed with skin cancer this year, let the Skin Cancer Awareness Month this May provide you with the necessary motivation to protect your skin. If you still have questions, please call us or use the online scheduling tool to book an appointment.

Melanie Adams, MD, PA Melanie L. Adams, M.D. is a board-certified dermatologist who has been in private, solo practice since September 2005. She is a member of the American Academy of Dermatology and American Society of Dermatologic Surgery. Her areas of expertise include skin cancer, dermatology of ethnic skin, general dermatology, and cosmetic dermatology.

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