While basking in the warm weather courtesy of that neighborhood picnic, after-work happy hour or poolside vacation, enjoy the leisure, but keep an eye on the sun exposure. Though you’re likely aware that prolonged sun exposure—along with indoor tanning beds—are the leading causes of skin cancer, did you know that skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States? This year alone, 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer (the most common types found on the base layer of the skin, like the face, ears, neck and backs of hands) will be reported, and melanoma (the deadliest type of skin cancer) will affect more than 76,000 people. Brush off those preconceived notions that skin cancer is limited to fair-skinned people or the elderly; everyone, regardless of age and race, is at risk.
Despite the scary statistics, skin cancer is also one of the most preventable cancers. Though you can’t go back in time and intercept that blistering sunburn five years ago, you can take these tips from the Skin Cancer Foundation:
Seek out shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is the strongest and avoid direct sunlight. Hang out in the shade or beneath an umbrella. While you may have heard that the sun is a source for vitamin D, it’s safer to eat vitamin-D-rich foods like salmon or orange juice than subjecting your skin to UV rays.
Don’t get burned. If you start to see your skin redden, get out of the sun, stat!
Wear protective gear like hats, sunglasses and clothing—darker clothing protects better than clothing with lighter hues.
Put on a high-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day, year-round. Coat your body with about 2 tablespoons at least 30 minutes before you go outside and reapply every two hours if you’re swimming or sweating.
Self-check your skin once a month for irregular moles or discoloration.
Visit your dermatologist once a year for a professional skin cancer exam.