Being Sun Savvy

by | May 6th, 2020 | News

Sun Safety 

May is sun safety awareness month and the sun is finally shining! As you head outdoors to enjoy it, be mindful. The American Cancer Society estimates that around 230 people in North Dakota will be diagnosed this year with a cancer that is almost totally preventable – melanoma. We all know the primary cause of skin cancer is too much sun exposure.

The median age of diagnosis of melanoma is about 50. Of those individuals diagnosed, melanoma may or may not have been the primary cancer. Women age 49 and under are more likely to develop melanoma than any other cancer except breast and thyroid. Your risk increases if you have a family or personal history of skin cancer. So, melanoma and skin cancer survivors need to be mindful of that history and limit sun exposure.

People also need to know there is no safe amount of indoor tanning, and the “pre-vacation” indoor tan is neither a safe nor recommended approach to sun safety. Even a little bit of tanning bed use increases your risk of skin cancer. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently announced stricter rules on tanning beds, including warning labels stating that they shouldn’t be used by anyone under age 18. Also, one application of sunscreen at the beginning of the day isn’t sufficient for all-day wear. You should reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or getting wet. And, using sunscreen isn’t a ticket to seek out more sun exposure. It’s part of a multi-pronged approach to moderate sun exposure.

Sun Savvy Tips to Remember:

  1. Limit sun exposure. Seek shade when the sun’s UV rays are the strongest, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., or plan outdoor activities around those times.
  2. Apply sunscreen. Use a sunscreen that is labeled broad spectrum. This means it covers both types of the sun’s dangerous rays, UVA and UVB rays. Sunscreen also should be at least SPF 30 and water-resistant. Apply sunscreen liberally every two hours and cover exposed areas of your body.
  3. Wear protective clothing. This includes a long- sleeve shirt, wide-brim hat and sunglasses. Many companies even sell clothing with built-in ultraviolet protection. If you’re near water, sand or snow, be mindful. The sun can reflect off those surfaces and burn or damage your skin.
  4. Don’t use indoor tanning beds.

Also, try to check your skin monthly, using the ABCDEs of melanoma guide:
Asymmetry – the shape of one half doesn’t match the other
Border – edges are uneven
Color – shades of black, brown, or red
Diameter – larger than 6 mm or 1/4 inch
Evolving – has changed in size, shape, color or appearance. It’ll help you get to know your skin and spot any areas of concern right away.

Remember, moderation can go a long way. It doesn’t have to be a black or white decision, but tailor your daily practices to embrace skin cancer prevention.