It’s no secret, warm sunshine feels good to your body, mind, and soul. It’s also not a secret that sunshine provides numerous benefits for your health and well-being. Exposure to sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D in the body, which plays a crucial role in bone health, immune function, and even mood regulation. Want to get your happy on? Get some sunlight every day. Need better sleep? Improve your memory? It’s true—sunlight exposure can help regulate sleep patterns, improve cognitive function, and support the body’s natural circadian rhythm (especially when you get sunlight immediately after you wake up and get out of bed). Here’s the catch, though—you knew it sounded too good to be true, right?—there are some practices to consider to keep yourself from getting too much sun exposure and to help contribute to preventing skin cancer.
Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, but before you let your heart leap out of your chest and palms get sweaty, it is fortunately highly preventable. Go ahead, take that sweet breath of relief. By understanding the importance of sun protection, following recommended SPF guidelines, and prioritizing regular skin cancer screenings, you can take proactive steps to safeguard your precious skin’s health. And, we’re here to help!
Understanding Skin Cancer
How does skin cancer materialize? Skin cancer occurs when there is an abnormal growth of skin cells, primarily caused by exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. There are several different types of skin cancer, including basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), and melanoma, the most dangerous form. The good news is, knowing the risks and understanding the importance of prevention can help reduce the incidence and impact of this disease.
Importance of Sun Protection
When it comes to enjoying the sunshine, protection is key. Implementing these simple yet effective practices can help shield your skin from harmful, cancer-provoking UV radiation:
Seek Shade—Limit your time in the sun, especially during peak hours when the sun’s rays are the strongest (typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.). Seek shelter from the sunrays under trees, umbrellas, or other forms of shelter to reduce direct exposure to UV radiation.
Apply Sunscreen—When choosing a sunscreen, make sure it’s broad-spectrum with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or higher. SPF 30 filters out about 97% of UVB rays. Apply it generously to all exposed skin, including your face, neck, ears, and the back of your hands. Don’t forget your feet and lips, too! If you’re taking a dip in the water or sweating excessively, make sure to reapply your sunscreen every 80-90 minutes. And yes, it’s true, you need to be applying sunscreen even when it’s cloudy or cold outside. Especially in locations that get a lot of sunshine, like Central Oregon! Check out some of our favorite sunscreens here.
Wear Protective Clothing—Loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts, pants, and wide-brimmed hats are excellent sun-ray protectors when you can’t avoid being out in the sun. When possible, opt for clothing with a tight weave or specially designed sun-protective fabric for added defense against those strong and mighty UV rays. Need some clothing recommendations? Check out some trusty brands in our previous blog.
Regular Skin Cancer Screenings
In addition to practicing sun protection, regular skin cancer screenings are crucial for early detection and timely treatment. Here’s what you need to know:
Self-Examination—Perform monthly self-examinations to become familiar with your skin and identify any changes, such as new moles, growths, or spots. The ABCDE rule can help you identify potential signs of melanoma: Asymmetry, Border irregularity, Color variation, Diameter larger than a pencil eraser, and Evolving or changing characteristics.
Professional Check-ups—Schedule regular appointments with Dr. Karla Pivik for a comprehensive skin cancer screening. She has the expertise to assess your skin health and detect any suspicious moles or lesions that may require further examination or biopsy.
High-Risk Individuals—If you have a personal or family history of skin cancer or risk factors such as fair skin, numerous moles, or frequent sun exposure, it is essential to discuss a screening schedule with Dr. Karla Pivik. High-risk individuals may require more frequent checkups.
Additional Protective Measures:
Apart from sun protection and screenings, there are other measures you can take to prevent skin cancer:
Avoiding Tanning Beds—It may be tempting during those cold, winter months, or before a vacation in the sun to head to the tanning salon. However, tanning beds and sunlamps emit harmful UV radiation that can significantly increase the risk of skin cancer.
Stay Hydrated—What does hydration have to do with sun damage prevention? Proper hydration helps maintain healthy skin. Your skin is your largest organ! Make sure it’s getting the protection and hydration it needs by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, especially when spending time outdoors in the sun.
Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle—Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and antioxidants to support overall skin health. Extra bonus: eating a healthy diet also does wonders for your body and mind, too! Additionally, avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, as they can contribute to skin damage and increase cancer risks.
Preventing skin cancer requires proactive measures and a commitment to sun protection practices, regular screenings, and maintaining overall skin health. But you’re worth it! Prioritize your skin health, protect yourself from harmful UV radiation, and encourage your loved ones to do the same. Your hydrated, healthy, glowing skin will thank you.