How to Prevent Skin Cancer? 5 Sun Damage Prevention Tips

When it comes to sunscreen, the most important number is 365

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Summer weather is here and it’s time for outdoor activities — summer camps, sports, outings, festivals, vacations, boating, you name it. It’s more important now than ever to incorporate sunscreen into your daily skincare routine.

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States and is more often than not caused by excessive or consistent sun exposure. Sun damage over time adds up, and even if you are lucky enough to never be diagnosed with skin cancer, ultraviolet (UV) light can still cause your skin to wrinkle, produce blotches or spots and cause damage to the skin around your eyes — essentially aging your skin.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways you can work to prevent skin cancer and sun damage all together while also letting you enjoy the summer sun.

What is Skin Cancer?

There are three main types of skin cancer. Basal and squamous skin cancers are more common but are easier to treat. Melanoma, on the other hand, is rare but  often far more deadly.

Most people start showing signs of skin cancer in their late 40s. After years of sun damage, UV light mutates DNA in the genes of skin cells, essentially changing its code to begin producing cancerous or precancerous cells.

To learn if you’re at an increased risk for skin cancer and how you can protect your skin from sun damage, check out the list below:

Skin cancer risk factors

  • Lack of melanin (light-skinned, light-haired and/or light-eyed people)

  • History of sunburns

  • Family or personal history with skin cancer

  • Interaction with radiation

  • Excessive and/or consistent sun exposure

  • Climate

  • Weak immune system

  • Moles or other pre-cancerous skin splotches

How to Prevent Skin Cancer

Stay in the shade when you can

One of the best ways to protect your skin from sun is to limit your time in it! Sticking to the shade when you get the chance — sitting on a covered porch rather than out on the grass, popping up an umbrella when you’re at the beach, etc. — will block out much of the UV light from the sun while still letting you soak up the summer vibes.

Even if it’s a cloudy day, we still recommend getting under the shade if you can. UV light can still travel through clouds on a gray day and is a factor to consider in the winter, too. Even if you can’t feel it, that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Lather on the sunscreen

If you’re not using SPF 30 or higher, you’re not really using sunscreen. SPF 30 or higher will be able to block the UV rays from damaging your skin, and anything less than that won’t have much of a chance of fighting off the sun. If you’re going to be in the sun for a while, you’ll need to reapply every two hours (or more if you’re sweating or wet).

If you’re not hanging out in the sun, you should still make a habit to introduce some sunscreen into your daily routine regardless. Either as sunscreen itself or through the use of a moisturizer or makeup with built-in sunscreen.

Layer on the clothing (including hats and shades)

If you can’t slather on the sunscreen, your next best bet is to layer your clothes. Dark colored clothing made of thick, woven fabrics that cover your skin physically block out UV rays from reaching your skin. Adding a large brimmed sun hat and sunglasses can further protect your face and the sensitive skin there.

But not all clothing is made the same. Some clothes, like linen, are too thin and loosely-woven to block UV light, so it’s important to know if your long-sleeved shirt is actually doing its job. Some clothes are labeled with an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) — a measurement of how well it blocks out UV light. If you know you’re at risk for sun damage or skin cancer, make sure the clothing you plan on wearing has a UPF that can stand up to the task.

Stay away from the tanning beds

By this point, most people know that tanning beds are just as bad for your skin as the sun, but it’s a point worth reiterating. Tanning beds recreate the damaging UV light of the sun and shine it right onto your skin — so it’s pretty much the same as standing out on the beach on a sunny day. We get that no one likes to see their pasty legs in bathing suits, but we recommend self-tanning lotions or oils  over a type of tanning that could damage your skin.

Check yourself out

Doing periodic checks on your moles, freckles and overall skin to see if anything is new and/or different can help you spot cancerous and precancerous spots before they grow into worrying concerns.

Be on the lookout for anything that pops up, grows, changes color or is an odd shape. Those are the signs that those spots have developed into something more than just a character feature.

It’s always better to spot early and it’s even better to get a professional’s eyes as soon as something seems off. Periodic check ups with a dermatologist — whether you have something to talk about or not — can also help prevent anything flying under the radar and causing more damage down the line.

Stop by Courted and Get Summer Sun Ready

Stop by Courted at The St. James to start reversing the effects of sun damage on your skin. Give us a call at  (703) 239-6910 or visit us online to book your next appointment. While you’re here, you can also learn about how you can play indoors all year round at The St. James while keeping your skin protected from the sun damage outside.


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