Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for skin cancer, including melanoma. For anyone who has had a skin cancer, actinic keratosis (precancerous skin lesion), or have many atypical moles, it is very important to practice sun safety and protect your skin. The sun damage that you have accumulated over the course of your lifetime will always be there and cannot be reversed, but there are many good studies that demonstrate starting sunscreen use at any age can reduce further risk of skin cancer.
Sun safety and sun protection can decrease your chances of developing further problems. It is also important to have regular skin examinations to detect new lesions at an early stage.
Below are recommendations to help prevent skin cancer and sun damage:
Sunscreen: If you are going to be outside for more than 20 or 30 minutes, you should apply sunscreen with SPF number 30 or higher. Sunscreen only lasts 2-3 hours and should be reapplied every 2 hours if you are spending the day in the sun. Also, sunscreen is not "waterproof" even if it says so on the bottle — if you go swimming, you need to reapply sunscreen after you come out of the pool.
Protective Clothing: Wearing a broad-brimmed hat protects most of your face, ears, and neck. Keeping your shirt on also helps to protect your shoulders and back. Baseball hats only protect your forehead and aren't very good protection.
Daily Sunscreen Moisturizer: There are many nice daily sunscreen moisturizers with SPF 30 available. They all rub in well and do not leave you with a greasy feeling like the thicker sunscreens. It is a very good habit to get into using them on a daily basis all year round. UVA light, which is a major factor in causing skin cancer and aging of the skin, is present all year round from morning to evening at a relatively constant level. UVA doesn't cause burning, so we commonly don't think about the damage it causes. Most important of all, be sure to live your life, do things that you want to, and be happy. We don't want people to avoid outdoor activities, just be smart and protect yourself when you are enjoying the outdoors.
Lastly, for anyone who has had a skin cancer, actinic keratosis (precancerous skin lesion), or have many atypical moles, it is recommended to schedule regular check ups with a dermatologist. It is also important to check on a monthly basis for spots that are growing, bleeding, or changing in any way. Skin cancers are always easier to remove when they are smaller than when they are left untreated and have grown.
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