May is Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection Month

Did you know that sunburns and even suntans may increase your chance of skin cancer?

Try to limit your time in the sun, and seek shade when you can. When you must be in the sun, choose clothing that covers your skin and wear sunscreen.

When used correctly, sunscreen products may help prevent some skin cancers, including melanoma.

Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen product that filters both UVB radiation and UVA radiation, and wear clothing that protects your skin.

Follow these tips for protecting your skin from sunlight:

  • Use sunscreen products with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. (Some doctors suggest using a product with an SPF of at least 30.) Apply the product’s recommended amount to uncovered skin 30 minutes before going outside, and apply again every two hours or after swimming or sweating.
  • Wear a hat with a wide brim all around that shades your face, neck, and ears. Baseball caps and some sun visors protect only parts of your skin.
  • Wear sunglasses that block UV radiation to protect the skin around your eyes.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants. Tightly woven, dark fabrics are best. Some fabrics are rated with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). The higher the rating, the greater the protection from sunlight.

Keep in mind that the sun’s rays ….

  • Are strongest between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m.
  • Can go through light clothing, windshields, windows, and clouds
  • Are reflected by sand, water, snow, ice, and pavement

To detect skin cancer early, examine your skin all over your body and watch for changes over time.

By checking your skin regularly, you’ll learn what is normal for you.

The best time to check your skin is after a shower or bath.

Use a full-length mirror and a hand-held mirror in a room with plenty of light.

If you find anything unusual, see your doctor.

Check yourself from head to toe:

  • Look at your face, neck, ears, and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move your hair so that you can see better. You also may want to have a relative or friend check through your hair. It may be hard to check your scalp by yourself.
  • Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror. Then, raise your arms and look at yourleft and right sides.
  • Bend your elbows. Look carefully at your fingernails, palms, forearms (including the undersides), and upper arms.
  • Check the back, front, and sides of your legs. Also check the skin all over your buttocks and genital area.
  • Sit and closely examine your feet, including your toenails, the soles of your feet, and the spaces between your toes.

Learn where your moles are and their usual look and feel. Check for anything new, such as…

  •  a new mole (that looks different from your other moles)
  • a new red or darker color flaky patch that may be a little raised
  • a change in the size, shape, color, or feel of a mole
  • a sore that doesn’t heal
  • a new flesh-colored firm bump

Write down the dates of your skin self-exams and make notes about the way your skin looks on those dates. You may find it helpful to take photos to help check for changes over time.

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