Every year when the weather starts warming up, it’s important to review skin cancer safety. Even in the sunshine state, it’s easy to forget about sun safety: Florida has the second-highest rate of melanoma cases in the US, according to the Florida Society of Dermatology. The rates of melanoma have been rising, and more than 9,000 people are expected to die from melanoma in 2017.
The good news is, nearly 90 percent of skin cancers are preventable, and are highly curable if detected early. Most skin cancer is caused by overexposure to sunlight. If you live in a sunny climate and spend a lot of time outdoors, don’t get lazy about sun protection!
Follow these tips to keep your skin safe:
- Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day. Five to ten minutes outside, without sunscreen, can help you get adequate levels of vitamin D. But if you’re going to be outside any longer than that, you need to cover up. Find some shade, wear long sleeves, and wear a broad-brimmed hat.
- Choose UV-protective clothing if you’re fair skinned. All clothing blocks UV rays to a certain extent, but children and people with lighter skin need more protection. Look for clothing with a UPF rating of 15 or more.
- Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors to allow the ingredients to fully bind to the skin. Don’t wait until you’re already in the sun!
- Use a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher whenever you’re outside for more than ten minutes. If you’re going to be in the water, use a water-resistant sunscreen. Remember water resistant does not mean waterproof. These sunscreens retain their SPF value for a certain length of time when exposed to sweat or water and will start to lose effectiveness after that time. Reapply when you get out of the water.
- Don’t skimp on sunscreen. Most people don’t use enough. Make sure you’re using enough to evenly cover the skin, and massage it in thoroughly. Don’t be afraid to use too much — too much is better than not enough.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming, sweating, or towel drying.
- Pay attention to labels and expiration dates. If you’ve been using the same sunscreen for three summers, it might be time to get a new one. The active ingredients in sunscreen deteriorate over time, which means it may not be as effective. Read the instructions on the bottle as well — your sunscreen may not be as effective if you store it in a hot environment like the trunk of your car.
- Don’t count on your makeup to provide adequate sunscreen. Even if your sunscreen contains SPF, chances are you aren’t using enough of it to get adequate coverage. And most women don’t reapply makeup during the day like we do sunscreen, so its effectiveness wears off.
- Don’t forget cloudy days. Some of the highest skin cancer rates occur in states that don’t get as much sun. If we can’t see the sun, we think it won’t hurt us. But UV rays still penetrate through clouds and haze.
- See a dermatologist every year for a head-to-toe exam.
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