May Is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

Cynthia Bailey, MD|May 1, 2013

sun protection hatAs you emerge from winter eager for languid days in the sun, the organizations that care about your skin cancer risk are revving up to get you the sun protection information you need right now. Take advantage of their resources and be prepared. This year enjoy the sun without the damage that leads to skin cancer, thin skin, wrinkles, and age spots. Here are the resources that are out there for you this year: The American Academy of Dermatology’s Free Skin Cancer Screening Program helps you find a skin cancer screening event near you. Click here to learn more. The American Academy of Dermatology’s Shade Structure Grant Program, which helps fund shade structure instillation for public schools and non-profit organizations. Click here to learn more. The Center for Disease Control has a variety of resources to for teachers and schools. 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer; by helping youth make smart choices about sun protection now can change that statistic. Click here to learn more. SunAWARE’s blog which covers the politics, events, and new information related to tanning and sun protection. SunAWARE also has free resources for teachers too. Click here to learn more.  Starting today, there are steps you can take to ensure that you don’t become the 1 in 5 Americans who develop skin cancer in their lifetime (or if you do, discover how can you be sure to catch it early when it’s much less serious!)

  1. Know when you’re at risk. It is any time the sun is out and the rays are hitting your skin, whether directly, by reflection, or through windows. Just for fun, you can explore UV exposure with my simple and educational little UV Detecto Ring. For a little over 2 bucks, it's quite an eye opener and will help you get the naysayers listening.
  2. Especially avoid peak midday sun exposure, which is between 10am and 3pm when UVB intensity is the highest.
  3. Cover up with sun protection clothing (my favorite and most trusted is Coolibar’s great line of clothing with high-tech fabric that really performs).
  4. Wear a full-brim sun hat that covers the skin on your scalp and shades your face, eyes, and ears. Click here to see sun hats I trust.
  5. Wear UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes and give extra protection to the delicate skin around your eye area.
  6. Use the right sunscreen and apply it correctly! I really only trust zinc oxide sunscreens - you want a minimum of 5% zinc oxide in your product. Use water-resistant sunscreen for wet and sweaty activities. Use a lip product to prevent lip cancer. Use a non-migrating product like Raw Elements Eco Stick for around the eyes when you are wet. See the products I trust my family's and my patients' skin to and get my advice for how to use sunscreen correctly by clicking here. solbar zinc sunscreenNeed help picking the right sunscreen for your skin type? See my Sunscreen Comparison Chart.
  7. Get screened! Do a self exam monthly starting now. Learn what to look for by reviewing the ABCDs of Melanoma, Signs of Skin Cancer, Basal Cell Carcinoma Signs and Symptoms, Precancerous Actinic Keratosis Signs and Symptoms, and Squamous Cell Carcinoma Signs and Symptoms. If you find a suspicious spot or if you've had a history of tanning, sunburns, or a lot of sun exposure, I recommend getting an annual full skin exam (that means the whole Monty) by a board-certified dermatologist. This patient of mine saved his life by scheduling a full skin exam with me. Early Melanoma He didn't know this spot was anything to worry about. It was an early melanoma and because we caught it early, he has a great prognosis - and that's the trick, so get screened!

For more of my sun protection tips and information please see the links below, then go have fun in the sun without damaging your skin.   Photo attribution: Thanks and gratitude Half-blood prince

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