Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, affecting about two million Americans each year. The most common form of skin cancer, melanoma, is expected to account for 75,000 of the 2 million people likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer in 2012.
To prevent skin cancer, it helps to know your risk factors. Here are some things that can increase your odds of the illness:
- Fair skin, though particularly melanoma can strike anyone regardless of coloration
- A history of sunburns; each sunburn represents damage to the skin cells
- Tanning, which is also the body’s response to damage
- A family history of skin cancer. If it runs in your family, you’re in line for it too.
- A weakened immune system, for example due to HIV or anti-rejection drugs after an organ transplant.
- Old age, since like many cancers, skin cancer can take a long time to develop. Damage in adolescence can show up as cancer decades later.
If you have one of these risk factors, it’s all the more important that you protect yourself. However, anyone can benefit from developing sun-safe habits, such as:
- Try to stay out of the sun from 10 AM to 4 PM, when it does the most damage.
- Head for shade if you must go out.
- Put a shirt on, ideally one with a tightly woven fabric to provide full protection.
- Put on a hat, which will prevent sunlight from harming any of your cells
- Wear sunscreen. This is, after all, what sunscreen is for.
- Don’t use tanning booths, which just do damage.
- Do not burn, or at least try not to.
Following these tips will help you have a fun summer, while avoiding at least one unpleasant reminder of it in years to come.