Limit Your Skin Cancer Risk With These Fun in the Sun Tips

Nothing ruins family fun in the sun more than a serious sunburn. Not only can excessive sun exposure cause painful sunburns, it also increases your risk of developing the most common type of cancer in the U.S. — skin cancer. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer due to sun exposure in the course of their lifetime. Harbin Clinic wants to ensure you and your family practice safe sun habits during this sunny season.

Sunscreen Savior

“Limiting time in the direct sun and using sun protection are key tips for reducing the damaging effects the sun can have on skin, including the risk of skin cancer,” says Harbin Clinic Radiation Oncologist Dr. JC Abdou. “The effects of sun exposure take many years to show up as damaged skin. Sunburns earlier in life can have very negative effects later on.”

One of the best ways to protect your skin from the harmful effects of sun exposure is to avoid prolonged sun exposure. If you are going to be out in the sun, aim for early morning and late afternoon/evening hours.  During peak hours of 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., take breaks from the sun in shaded areas.

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, regular use of a sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher reduces your risk of melanoma by 50 percent. Make sure to apply at least two tablespoons of sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher to your body anytime you go outside and reapply every two hours.

Learn Your ABC’s

“Although not all moles are bad, most melanomas, a type of dangerous skin cancer, arise out of abnormal moles,” says Dr. Abdou. “Make sure to get a full-body skin cancer check from your family medicine physician and evaluate your moles using the ABCD rule.”

  • A – Asymmetry. Does one side of the mole look like the other?
  • B – Border Irregularity. Do the edges of the mole look jagged or uneven?
  • C – Color. Is the mole the same color throughout or are there some differences?
  • D – Diameter. Anything larger than a pencil eraser should be checked by a physician.

Base Tan Myths

The Skin Cancer Foundation reports that more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer in the U.S. each year are linked to indoor tanning. Contrary to popular belief, getting a base tan in anticipation of a lot of sun exposure will not prevent your skin from getting sunburned— any type of suntan will result in damage to the skin. Not only can tanning increase your skin cancer risk, it can also lead to wrinkles, leathery skin and age spots.

“One thing I tell all my patients is to stay away from tanning beds and sun lamps,” says Dr. Abdou. “If you go to the tanning bed or salon, I would say stop immediately because there will be trouble down the road.  Tanning beds significantly increase the risk of skin cancer. Tanning beds are to skin what smoking is to lungs”

Harbin Clinic cares completely about making sure your outdoor family activities are fun and safe. For more health information, visit our web site at