July is prime time for finishing off — or maintaining — that coveted summer tan. What people might not realize, however, is that unprotected exposure to the sun puts them at a much higher risk for developing skin cancer.
At Monarque Health & Wellness, our expert providers emphasize preventive care when it comes to the health of your skin and body. We’re here to help our patients stay informed and receive the care they need for dermatology, disease prevention, functional medicine, and more.
We believe skin cancer is preventable with the right steps, so take a few moments to learn what causes skin cancer and how to prevent it.
What causes skin cancer?
To begin with, your epidermis (the top skin layer) is made up of three types of cells:
- Squamous cells
- Basal cells
Skin cancer develops when one of these three types of cells starts reproducing abnormally. While most cases of skin cancer are nonmelanoma (meaning they involve either basal or squamous cells), some cases fall into the dangerous category of melanoma. This type of skin cancer affects your melanocytes and is especially aggressive.
The majority of skin cancer cases come from exposure to UV light. When you step out into the sunlight, you’re exposed to two types of UV light:
- UVA rays, which cause premature aging and contribute to skin cancer.
- UVB rays, which are responsible for sunburns.
To keep your skin healthy and safe, you want to protect yourself from both UVA and UVB rays.
Five tips for skin cancer prevention
So, what are the essential steps you should follow to protect yourself from skin cancer? Here are our top five recommendations.
1. Wear broad spectrum sunscreen
Amid a plethora of sunscreen options, make sure to choose sunscreen that’s labeled “broad spectrum” and has a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15. We recommend SPF 30 for extended outdoor time. This protects you from both UVA and UVB rays.
Apply your sunscreen 30 minutes before going out, and be sure to reapply every 2 hours.
2. Stay in the shade
The less direct exposure you get to the sun, the better. Whether you’re out walking your dog or taking a hike, seek the shade as much as possible. Try to walk or stand under the cover of trees or an awning, if you can find one.
3. Cover your skin
While lying outside and tanning is an American tradition, your best bet for preventing skin cancer is to cover your skin from the sun. Not all fabrics protect you from the sun’s rays, either.
Choose clothing that is:
- Dark or bright in color, which absorbs UV rays better than light colors.
- Densely woven: If you can see through it, it’s not protecting you!
- Made of cotton, shiny polyester, or silk. These materials reflect the UV rays better than others.
- UPF labeled, if possible. This ultraviolet protection factor rating system tells you how much UV protection the clothing offers.
4. Avoid tanning beds
While it may seem safer to lie in a UV tanning bed than tanning out in the sun, these beds still expose you to dangerous amounts of UV radiation. We recommend staying away from tanning beds, as well as protecting your skin from the sun any time you go outside.
5. Get your skin examined regularly
While it’s not necessarily a prevention technique, we do recommend doing a head-to-toe self-examination least once a month. This allows you to look for any changes in your skin, from moles that are changing in size or color to open sores that aren’t healing after three weeks.
In addition to self-exams, we recommend coming in for an annual skin check with one of our dermatology experts. They can identify any skin issues that need monitoring and order a biopsy for any skin lesions that may be a sign of skin cancer.
If you notice anything unusual with your skin or want to schedule a skin check with one of our expert providers, contact our Ashland, Oregon, office by calling 541-326-4777 today. You can also book your visit online, or send a message to our team here on our website.