Do Your Part to Prevent Skin Cancer

By Stewart W. West, MD

As summer begins, it can be tempting to spend more time out in the sun. Being exposed to sunlight is actually necessary for your body to produce the vitamin D it needs. However, being in the sun without protection or regular screening can result in skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in the United States.

Do Your Part to Prevent Skin Cancer

Prevention

Many people experience the most sun damage during childhood. You should protect yourself, and your children, to avoid any additional harm to your skin. Follow these tips to help prevent skin cancer in your family:

  • Stay in the shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Generously apply 30+ SPF sunscreen throughout the day.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
  • Wear a hat that shades your face, ears, and neck (about a four-inch brim).
  • Wear sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Avoid indoor tanning.

Screening

Catching skin cancer early makes treatment easier, and this can be done with regular screenings. You should have an initial screening by your doctor, and then you can follow up with 10-minute self-exams once every month. Follow these tips as you screen yourself and your children:

  • Check your entire body to look for anything new or different.
  • Use a body map to record all spots. This will make it easier to notice changes. Download a body map from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
  • Use one or two mirrors as needed to see everywhere.
  • Don’t forget to check on your scalp and under nails.
  • If there is anything that worries you at all, contact your doctor.