Kids are back in school, the suitcases are stashed in the attic, and the leftover beach sand is falling away. Summer may be dwindling down, but that doesn’t mean the sun takes a vacation. It’s always important to protect yourself from its rays and resulting damage all year long!
Let’s break down a few common myths about skin cancer:
• It’s more than sun exposure – Besides exposure to the sun, there are other factors that contribute to developing skin cancer, such as biological family history of skin cancer, the vulnerability of your immune system and medications that may affect it, and the use of tanning beds. In fact, ultraviolet rays from tanning beds can cause more harm than forays in the sun.
• Skin cancer doesn’t discriminate – Everyone who has ever been outside in the sun or underneath other ultraviolet rays is susceptible to developing skin cancer, regardless of the darkness or lightness of your skin. People with lighter skin are more susceptible, but dark-skinned individuals aren’t immune, and those cases more often prove fatal, as the disease can go undetected for longer and progress.
• “Water-resistant” sunscreen doesn’t mean water or sweat proof – The FDA actually prohibits companies from using certain misleading terms, such as “water-proof,” “sweat-proof,” or “sunblock,” as no product is 100% defensive from the sun. If you’re going to be outside for a prolonged amount of time, sunscreen needs to be reapplied multiple times a day.
• The sun poses a risk in all seasons – Being outside in the sun during the fall or winter can leave you just as susceptible to skin cancer as in summer. And remember: even brief periods of sun exposure can add up and lead to cancer.
Tips for prevention:
• It’s no surprise, but limiting sun exposure is the best way to reduce your chances of skin cancer. If you’re concerned about vitamin D deficiency—as vitamin D can be especially detrimental to seniors and women at risk for osteoporosis—know that there are other ways of vitamin D intake, such as a supplement or diet change.
• Reapply sunscreen. As mentioned above, water-resistant doesn’t mean water-proof or sweat-proof. Reapplication is a must.
• Check your skin regularly. This isn’t a preventative measure necessarily, but catching cancerous spots early can increase your chances of recovery.
If you’ve already struggled with skin cancer in the past, be overprotective of your skin when outdoors, as individuals who have had melanoma already are far more susceptible to developing it again. Stay cool in the shade and wear sunglasses that provide UV protection. Use a sunscreen of at least SPF 15 and reapply it often! Make sure you don’t miss any spots.