You’ve heard it many times before: “Don’t forget to wear sunscreen!” But, is there an easier way to keep skin cancer prevention top of mind all year round?
“Get your skin checked annually around the time of your birthday or a favorite holiday,” says Michael Kaminer, M.D., member of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS).
Many people might be surprised to learn that sun damage is cumulative, and sun exposure in your youth may lead to aging and skin cancer later on. To prevent sun damage, you should develop a routine of wearing and reapplying sunscreen.
“Overexposure to the sun, seen as sunburns, will set skin in a downward spiral,” notes Dr. Kaminer. “In fact, many of my patients can pinpoint the specific sunburn that damaged their skin. Protecting the skin from harmful UV rays is critical not just during the summer, but all year.”
So, what are some steps you can take on a daily basis to lower your risk of skin cancer this year? Dr. Kaminer and the ASDS suggest the following:
Be sure to wear sunscreen: No matter what your skin type or how your body reacts to the sun, you should always wear sunscreen with a sun protective factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. Apply about one ounce (the size of a shot glass) of sunscreen to cover your entire body and reapply every two to three hours spent outdoors. Research shows that many people put on about half of the amount of sunscreen they need, so be sure to lather it on. Also, don’t forget your lips — use lip balm with an SPF of 30 or higher.
Take more than a break: Avoid sun exposure during peak hours of intensity from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If you must be outside, apply sunscreen 20 to 30 minutes before heading out and reapply throughout the day.
Wear sun protective clothing: Wearing a hat with a full, wide brim can help protect areas often exposed to the sun, such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose and scalp. Apply sunscreen under a T-shirt, or wear more protective clothing.
Protect your family: Teach children life-long skin protection habits at a young age, even if you think they aren’t listening. Set a good example by putting on sunscreen together.
In addition, Dr. Kaminer and the ASDS offer the following tips for long-term skin cancer detection and prevention:
Monitor your skin: If any unusual spots appear on your skin, get them checked out immediately. If something looks funny or different, see a dermatologic surgeon.
See the right doctor: When something doesn’t look right, schedule an appointment with a dermatologic surgeon, who can use a number of noninvasive tools to determine if the spot is cancerous. You can then work together to find the right treatment; many newer treatments are painless and do not cause scarring. To find a dermatologic surgeon, visit www.ASDS.net.
Get help from a friend: The best way to detect skin cancer, especially on hard-to-see places like the back, is to have your spouse, partner or a friend check your skin on a regular basis. Be sure to check your skin yourself too.
So, pack that sunscreen wherever you go and reapply. And be sure to schedule an appointment with your dermatologic surgeon this year. Visit www.ASDS.net for more information on how to best detect and prevent skin cancer and to find a free skin cancer screening in your area.
About the ASDS
ASDS is the largest specialty organization exclusively representing dermatologic surgeons who have unique training and experience to treat the health, function and beauty of skin. Dermatologic surgeons are experts in skin cancer prevention, detection and treatment. As the incidence of skin cancer rises, dermatologic surgeons are committed to taking steps to minimize the life-threatening effects of this disease. ASDS members are pioneers in the field, having created and enhanced many of the advancements in dermatologic surgery to repair and improve the skin.
Did you know the FDA recently updated guidelines for over-the-counter (OTC) sunscreen labels?
The regulations will go into effect next summer and will help consumers stay protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
The new labels will address five key areas:
1. Broad spectrum designation: Sunscreens that pass the FDA’s broad spectrum test procedure, which measures UVA protection relative to UVB protection, will be labeled with a “Broad Spectrum SPF” value on the front label, indicating the magnitude of overall protection.
2. Use claims: Only Broad Spectrum sunscreens with an SPF value of 15 or higher will be able to claim to reduce the risk of skin cancer and early skin aging if used as directed with other sun protection measures.
3. “Waterproof,” “sweatproof” or “sunblock” claims: According to the FDA, manufacturers cannot label sunscreens as “waterproof” or “sweatproof” because these claims overstate their effectiveness. Sunscreens also cannot claim to provide sun protection for more than two hours without reapplication.
4. Water resistance claims: Water resistance claims on the front label will indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while swimming or sweating.
5. Drug facts: All sunscreens will include standard “Drug Facts” information on the back and/or side of the container.