Skin cancer – one of the most prevalent types of cancer and the easiest to prevent – affects over 80,000 people in Canada each year. With summer on the horizon, it’s important you take steps to guard your skin from the sun’s harsh rays.
Ways you can protect your skin:
1. Seek Shade to Defend Your Skin During Mid-Day
- Ultraviolet (UV) rays will be strongest during the middle of the day, between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Between these hours, you should find shade when and where you can – under trees, awnings or umbrellas.
- Keep in mind the “shadow rule.” A shadow shorter than you means stronger UV radiation, while a longer shadow means weaker UV radiation.
2. Protect Your Skin with Broad Spectrum Sunscreens
Apply UVA/UVB broad spectrum sunscreens (at least 15 SPF) daily, and 30+ SPF if you’re spending a lot of time outside.
- About 30 minutes before going outside, apply sunscreen over exposed areas of your skin and let your skin absorb it.
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours during the day. Reapply more frequently if you’re sweating or getting wet.
- Be extra cautious if your skin is fair. Give your skin time to absorb the first layer of sunscreen while you’re indoors, then applying a second coat before you go outside.
3. Keep Your Skin Hydrated by Moisturizing Regularly
- Use lotions with an SPF on your face to protect it. Overnight, be sure to use a hydrating cream.
- Protect and moisturize your chest and neck, two of the most often overlooked and easily sunburned areas.
- Apply sunscreen and moisturizer on your feet, especially if wearing open shoes with straps.
- Exfoliate 1-2 times each week if your skin is dry and 2-3 if oily, removing damaged cells and softening, smoothing, and rejuvenating your skin.
4. Perform Monthly Exams at Home and Visit Your Doctor Every Year
Though they shouldn’t replace a doctor’s examination, self-exams will help you discover early warning signs.
Check the ABCDEs when looking for skin cancers:
- Asymmetry: Most benign moles are symmetrical, having two halves that match each other. Asymmetrical marks might be a sign of trouble.
- Borders: Benign moles often have smooth, even borders. Skin cancers will commonly have scalloped or notched edges.
- Colours: If a mole is a number of colours – a range of blacks, tans, or browns – you should get it checked out.
- Diameter: Benign moles are often small, while skin cancers are larger. Remember, though, that they can be smaller when first detected. If you’re suspicious, see a healthcare professional.
- Evolution: If a mole changes size, shape, colour, or elevation you should get it checked out as soon as you can.
Whether or not you see trouble spots while you’re examining yourself, you should see your doctor every year for a professional exam – helping you keep your skin healthy long term.