Ultraviolet, or UV, radiation causes the majority of skin cancers in the United States. Preventing skin cancer, then, is all about protecting your skin from harmful UV rays. Dr. Alvarado, what can you tell us about skin cancer prevention?
Well, Dr. Mayzik, limiting total exposure to UV rays is the most important step in skin cancer prevention. Sunlight is the main source of UV radiation, so it’s best to stay out of the sun whenever possible, especially when the sun is most intense between 10 A.M. And 4 P.M. This doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all the time. In fact, being outdoors can help keep you physically active, which is an important part of overall health. But there are ways to limit your exposure to UV rays even when you are outside.
One way is to seek shade as much as possible. Avoiding direct sunlight can go a long way in protecting your skin from UV rays. You can also limit your UV exposure with clothing. Obviously, clothing that covers the most skin offers the most protection. But there are also other factors that affect the level of protection provided by clothes. For instance, dark colors generally protect better than light colors, and dry fabric is typically more protective than wet fabric. Wearing hats and sunglasses are other great ways to protect yourself from UV radiation.
When you find yourself in a situation where you can’t avoid being in the sun, it’s important to use sunscreen. Be sure to choose broad spectrum protection with sun protection factor, or SPF, values of 30 or higher, and follow the label directions to apply the sunscreen properly. Finally, don’t use tanning beds and sun lamps. Just like the sun, the lights used in tanning beds and sun lamps give off UV radiation, which can damage the skin and cause skin cancer.