By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., Founder
11 Sun Safety Tips To Avoid Skin Cancer
May is skin cancer awareness month. With summer beginning and all 50 U.S. states taking initiatives towards reopening, people are really out and about in the sun. What better time to discuss skin cancer and sun protection?
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell. Melanoma, which you have probably heard of, is less common but a very dangerous type of skin cancer.
Skin cancer always makes me think of the great Bob Marley. At just 36-years-old, he lost his battle to a rare form of skin cancer called acral lentiginous melanoma (ALM).
- Former contestant of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” Ali Fedotowsky-Manno shared that she was diagnosed with basel cell carcinoma. Luckily, the cancer was caught early and her prognosis is good.
- Khloe Kardashian revealed that she had a cancerous mole on her back that had to be removed. "I had 8 inches of skin removed. It was definitely painful because it was a lot of skin," she said, according to one report.
- Tamra Judge of The Real Housewives of Orange County shared on social media that she had melanoma. Fortunately, she was proactive by checking her skin regularly and was able to overcome it.
- Actor Hugh Jackman had “several bouts” with skin cancer, according to one report. One of these involved having a basal cell carcinoma removed from his nose.
The American Academy of Dermatology reports that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. In addition to this, the academy estimates that around 9,500 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with skin cancer every day.
The good news is that skin cancer is very preventable if we are proactive. Here are 11 proactive tips:
- Consider wearing sunscreen.
This may sound like I am stating the obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to wear the appropriate sunscreen and apply it properly. It is also best to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before sun exposure and reapply it every two hours during sun exposure. If you sweat excessively or go swimming, it is also advised to reapply your sunscreen. Don’t forget to pay attention to easy to miss areas of the body such as your toes, ears and hands. And with all the constant handwashing going on with COVID-19 these days, it is very important to reapply sunscreen to your hands.
- Sunscreen is not just for the beach.
In order to reduce your risk of skin cancer, it is best to wear sunscreen anytime you are exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. So if you are out walking your dog (for example), you may want to wear sunscreen. Even if it is cloudy outside, sunscreen is advised. So many people forget how exposed they are to the sun when driving in the car.
- Remember sunscreen expires.
If you find a bottle of sunscreen in your house that you believe is a few years old, it may be time to toss it and get a new one. According to one news report, the Food and Drug Administration requires that sunscreens display an expiration date. If you cannot find a date, three years is about as long as you should keep a bottle of sunscreen. And some people should be applying sunscreen so regularly that a bottle should not last you three years!
- “No tan is a safe tan.”
- Wear-sun protective clothing.
Wide-brimmed hats are great for protecting the face, shoulders and the scalp (where you can’t really apply sunscreen). You can also wear light-weight long sleeve shirts and pants.
- Take breaks.
Although sun exposure is important for getting an adequate intake of vitamin D, you don’t want to over do it. If you are going to the beach, take an umbrella to provide shade. Also remember that the sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Know your surroundings. Water, sand and snow.
Snow, sand and water reflect sunlight, making your sun exposure even stronger. This is why it may be important to be diligent about applying sunscreen.
- Check. Check. Check!
Per the American Cancer Society, “...many doctors recommend checking your own skin regularly, typically once a month.Regular skin self-exams are especially important for people who are at higher risk of skin cancer, such as people with reduced immunity, people who have had skin cancer before, and people with a strong family history of skin cancer. Talk to your doctor about how often you should examine your skin.A skin self-exam is best done in a well-lit room in front of a full-length mirror. You can use a hand-held mirror to look at areas that are hard to see, such as the backs of your thighs. A spouse, partner, or close friend or family member may be able to help you with these exams, especially for those hard-to-see areas like your back or scalp.”
And, of course, it doesn’t hurt to visit a dermatologist for a full skin cancer screening.
- Don’t believe the skin cancer myths.
Darker-skinned people may be less prone to skin cancer, however, people with darker skin are not immune to skin cancer and may need to wear sunscreen. In fact, some sources say that African Americans suffer from more melanoma deaths because it is harder to detect in darker skin. And, of course, there are plenty of fair-skinned African Americans who may need to be extra diligent about sunscreen.
- Maintain good nutrition.
Vitamins and minerals including vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, vitamin A and folic acid may help protect against skin cancer. Furthermore, the National Institutes of Health conducted a study which suggests your daily coffee or tea habit may benefit you with anticarcinogenic effects and reduce your risk of developing melanoma. To find out more about how diet and minerals can help protect you from cancer and other diseases, check out our recent book Minerals - The Forgotten Nutrient: Your Secret Weapon for Getting and Staying Healthy. (Smoking can also increase your risk of skin cancer as well as deplete these essential nutrients from your body).
- Organ transplant recipients should be extra careful.
Organ transplant recipients have a significantly higher risk of developing skin cancer. According to one medical source, “Organ transplant patients are at a higher risk — up to a 100-fold higher — for developing skin cancer compared to the general population. Transplant patients tend to develop a skin cancer called squamous cell carcinoma and Kaposi sarcoma. Many patients also develop a skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma and melanoma. This higher risk is caused by immunosuppressive medications, which are essential to transplant patients to prevent graft rejection and optimize graft survival. Because these medications suppress the immune system that fights off infection and prevents the development of cancer, transplant recipients are at elevated risk for infection and certain cancers.”
So spend time in the sun, but be proactive, safe and healthy.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.