New clubs, pristine greens and a sunny day. Nothing could be better. But before you greet the warmer weather with outdoor activities like golf, make sure your skin is ready for the attention.
Keeping on top of your skin health is an important part of your overall health. That’s because anyone can get skin cancer. It’s the most common kind of cancer. But protecting yourself doesn’t have to be hard.
Take Two Steps
Step one: Do a thorough self-skin exam each month. Check your whole body fully for any moles that look new or different. Get this self-screening checklist to help you remember the parts to check.
Finding cancer at an early stage often makes it simpler to treat. By the time signs appear, it may be harder to treat.
Step two: Get a yearly preventive checkup. Planning a yearly visit with your primary care doctor lets you get important screenings, such as a skin exam. The doctor will check for suspicious moles or lesions on your whole body, including your scalp, fingers and toes.
You could also visit a dermatologist for a yearly skin exam, especially if you’ve had problems in the past. Check out these tips for how to prepare for a trip to the dermatologist and what to expect.
Skin Cancer Risk Factors
It’s especially important to keep on top of any skin changes if you are at increased risk of skin cancer, though anyone can get it.
Risk grows if you have:
- A light skin color or skin that burns or freckles easily
- Blond or red hair
- A record of sunburns
- A family history of skin cancer
- Many moles or certain types of moles
- Exposure to sun through work or play
What to Look For
No matter what your risk level, it’s vital to protect your skin every day. More than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer are diagnosed each year in the U.S. And an estimated 87,000 new cases of melanoma (the most serious form of skin cancer) will be found in 2017, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Melanoma accounts for less than 1 percent of skin cancer cases, but it accounts for most skin cancer deaths. Most melanomas are caused by sun exposure. Raised awareness, more frequent screenings and earlier detection of skin cancer are all helping to decrease deaths from melanoma.
Possible signs that a mole could be melanoma include asymmetry and a width larger than a pencil eraser. The majority of melanomas are black or brown, but they can also be skin-colored, pink, red, purple, blue or white.
If you notice a new mole or changes in an existing one, see your doctor. Learn more about skin cancer screening from the National Cancer Institute.
Other Skin Damage
While some exposure to sunlight can be fun, too much can be dangerous. Overexposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can result in other health problems, even if you don’t develop skin cancer.
- Premature aging of the skin, brown spots and wrinkles
- Cataracts and other eye damage
- Immune system suppression
Protect Your Skin
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests these steps to help be sun safe:
- Do not burn or tan.
- Skip tanning beds.
- Look for shade.
- Wear sun-protective clothing.
- Slather on sunscreen.
- Be careful near water or sand. They reflect the sun’s rays and can increase risk for sunburn.
- Find a product that offers protection for your lips.
- Check the UV index before outdoor activities.
- Get vitamin D safely through food or supplements.
Be sure your whole family is protected — children are particularly at risk.
Get tips on the go.
Sources: Skin Cancer, American Cancer Society; Self-Screening for Melanoma, Melanoma Research Foundation; The ABCDEs of Melanoma, Melanoma Research Foundation; What Are the Risk Factors for Skin Cancer? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016; Skin Cancer Facts and Statistics, Skin Cancer Foundation, 2017; Action Steps for Sun Safety, Environmental Protection Agency; Sunscreen and Sun Protection, U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 2016; Sunscreen Facts, Melanoma Research Foundation