Summer is a wonderful time to get together with friends and family outdoors. It is also a time to remain vigilant about your health and take precautions against skin cancer, one of the most common chronic health conditions in the United States.
The month of May is recognized as Skin Cancer Awareness Month by the Skin Cancer Foundation, the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) and other health organizations. The member organizations of the US Family Health Plan Alliance want to use this opportunity to share some helpful information and preventative skin care measures you can take as you enjoy your summer fun.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is actually the most common form of cancer diagnosed in the country. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer which can develop in the form of malignant tumors when skin cells are damaged, most often by ultraviolet radiation—commonly referred to as UV rays.1 The concentration of UV rays from sunlight is greatest during the late spring and early summer, and the hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. are the most hazardous for outdoor exposure to UV rays.2
There are a number of ways to reduce your risk of developing melanoma and skin cancer. Wearing sunscreen with both UVA and UVB (broad spectrum) protection every time you are exposed to the sun is the easiest way. The CDC recommends using sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher2, while AAD recommends a water-resistant, SPF 30 sunscreen to help protect you from UV rays. Applying a generous amount of sunscreen about 15 minutes before you go outside allows your skin to absorb the sunscreen; most adults need about an ounce of sunscreen to cover their whole body. To remain protected while outdoors, the AAD also recommends that you reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.3
It is also important to cover your face with sunscreen. A recent study published in the Public Library of Science’s peer-reviewed medical journal, PLOS ONE, found that most people miss the eyelids and the corners of the eyes closest to the nose when applying sunscreen.4 The skin on those areas is the thinnest and less protected from ultraviolet light, according to Dr. Austin McCormick, an ophthalmic and oculoplastic surgeon and the study’s co-author.5
Along with using sunscreen, the CDC recommends the following preventive health tips to keep yourself protected from UV rays: 2
- Stay in the shade, especially during midday hours.
- Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
- Wear a hat with a wide brim to shade your face, head, ears, and neck.
- Wear sunglasses that wrap around and block both UVA and UVB rays.
Preventive health care can be a secret weapon for US Family Health Plan members against skin cancer and other chronic conditions all seasons of the year. Our disease and complex care management programs and patient-centered approach to health care keep our members active in lifestyle programs and invested in their health and wellness. For additional tips on preventative measures, contact your primary care provider.
- Melanoma | skincancer.org copyright 2019 https://www.skincancer.org/skin-cancer-information/melanoma
- What Can I Do to Reduce My Risk of Skin Cancer? | Center for Disease Control and Prevention last review April 24, 2018 https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/prevention.htm
- How to Apply Sunscreen | American Academy of Dermatology Association copyright 2018 https://www.aad.org/public/spot-skin-cancer/learn-about-skin-cancer/prevent/how-to-apply-sunscreen
- Application of SPF moisturizers is inferior to sunscreens in coverage of facial and eyelid regions | PLOS ONE published April 3, 2019 https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0212548
- You Missed A Spot! Patchy Sunscreen Application Leaves Skin Vulnerable To Cancer https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2019/04/03/709486490/you-missed-a-spot-patchy-sunscreen-application-leaves-skin-vulnerable-to-cancer