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6 Tips for Preventing Skin Cancer

Skin cancer develops when your skin cells grow abnormally and out of control. DNA damage to these cells is the No. 1 cause, usually from too much exposure to UVA and UVB ultraviolet radiation, which typically comes from the sun and the use of tanning beds. This overexposure causes mutations in your skin cells, forming tumors.

Among several types of skin cancer, melanoma is the most deadly. However, precancerous growths are known as actinic keratosis; basal cell carcinoma; and squamous cell carcinoma also pose serious health risks.

The most common cancer in the United States, nonmelanoma skin cancer affects more than 3 million Americans each year. Melanoma affects another 1 million Americans.

With a nod to May as National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, be smart and protect yourself from skin cancer with simple habits that minimize dangerous UV radiation exposure.

Wear sunscreen every day

Apply a broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen daily. Choose a sunscreen that has an SPF of 15 or higher, and if you plan to be outside in the sun, go for an SPF of 30 or higher. It’s a good idea to use sunscreen that’s water-resistant, too, to resist sweat and water fun.

Apply about 1 ounce — or 2 tablespoons — 30 minutes before heading outside. Also, reapply every two hours or so, especially if you’ve been active or swimming.

Sit in the shade

The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 am and 4 pm. Duck under trees, awnings, or umbrellas during these times to avoid the most damaging rays.

Wear protective clothing

A brimmed hat, sunglasses, and clothes with built-in SPF protection are a great protection against the sun’s rays. Long sleeves and pants are best, but they’re not always practical if it’s hot.

Do not burn

A sunburn indicates that your skin has been seriously damaged by UV radiation. One sunburn, even as infrequently as once every two years, triples your risk of melanoma — the most deadly type of skin cancer.

A sunburn doesn’t have to involve blisters and extreme pain, either. Just a little redness and irritation is enough to cause damage.

Stay away from tanning beds

Tanning beds use UV radiation, regardless of what their promos say, and UV radiation causes skin damage that can lead to skin cancer. Plus, use of tanning beds can make you age prematurely as you accelerate the development of wrinkles, brown spots, and sagging skin. If you use a tanning bed before you turn 35, your risk of melanoma increases by 75%.

Do a self-check

Check your skin from head to toe every month. Pay particular attention to moles, and notice if they change in shape, color, or size. Examine between your toes, under your arms, and at the back of your neck, as well as obvious places such as your abdomen, legs, arms, and face. Bring any unusual marks to the attention of Dr. Flood. He can ease your fears that they are not cancerous, or provide early treatment if they are.

Don’t forget to schedule your yearly professional skin exam with Dr. Flood, either. Call his office or book online to get your appointment today.

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