May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, a great time to point out the dangers of getting too much sun as people start thinking about heading to local pools and the beach.
While avoiding excessive amounts of ultraviolet rays — the cause of most skin cancers — is important every day of the year, late spring and summer are when most people are most likely to get too much sun.
Your likelihood of overexposure is greater during 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the day. But be aware that you are also affected by UV rays when it is cloudy and cool. UV rays are also reflected off water, so being in the pool doesn’t protect you.
Overexposure to UV rays leads to most types of skin cancers, and the sun is not the only contributor. Sunlamps and tanning beds are also bad for your skin.
When summer hits, many news outlets report the daily UV index. When it is 3 or higher, you should take steps to protect yourself:
♦ Use sunscreen with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 15 or more
♦ Make sure your arms and legs stay covered
♦ Wear a hat with a wide brim
♦ Wear sunglasses
♦ Stay in the shade
Also, don’t fall for misconceptions. We often associate tan skin with being healthy. That is not the case. What we call a good tan is actually a sign that your skin has been damaged. That is why you should find a way to keep as much as your skin covered as possible when you are outside during the day.
As many people already know, anyone can get skin cancer but some people with the following characteristics are more likely to get it:
♦ Light-colored skin
♦ Blue or green eyes
♦ Blond or red hair
♦ Family history
♦ Older people
The three most common skin cancers, also called carcinomas, are basal cell, squamous cell and melanoma.
Basal cell cancers often look like a recurring sore that may scab up, a flat lesion or even a whitish bump. They usually appear in areas that are most likely to be exposed to the sun, like your face, neck and arms.
Squamous cell cancers often appear as raised, red bumps or flat wounds with a crusted appearance. They too most often appear in areas that get the most sun, but people with darker skin are more likely to get them on other areas of the body.
Melanoma cancers can develop anywhere on your body and can affect anyone of any color. Signs can include dark spots or small, irregular lesions. You should see your physician if you notice any of these skin conditions.
As temperatures heat up it is also important to stay hydrated when you are out in the sun. During the hot summer months, people are more aware of the need to drink plenty of water. But when it first starts getting warm outside in the low to mid 80s it is easy to get overheated because you are not self-aware.
It is also a good idea to make sure you have water with you when you are taking a long trip. Sometimes it might be hard to find a place to get a drink.