Did you know the largest organ in your body is your skin? Yes! It’s true. And as summer approaches, now is the time to discuss protecting this very-important organ.
According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is the most-common cancer in the United States. In fact, more skin cancers are diagnosed each year in the U.S. each year than all other cancers combined – and the number of skin cancer cases has continued to rise over the last few decades.
Most skin cancers are caused by too much exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays. While most UV rays come from the sun, some come from man-made sources to include indoor tanning beds and sun lamps.
But there is good news! You can do a lot to protect yourself and your loved ones from UV rays, as well as catching skin cancer early so that it can be treated effectively.
Sunlight is the main source of UV rays, but that doesn’t mean you need to avoid the sun completely as summer approaches. And, it would be unwise to stay inside, as that would keep you from being active – and physical activity is important for overall good health and well-being.
Here are some tips from the American Cancer Center to keep you safe from harmful UV rays, but still allowing you to enjoy the outdoors:
- Slip on a shirt
- Slop on the sunscreen – reapplying regularly, and don’t forget your lips!
- Slap on a hat
- Wrap on sunglasses to protect your eyes and the sensitive skin around them
It’s also important to remember limiting exposure to direct sunlight while UV rays are at their strongest, which are between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you’re unsure of how strong the sun’s rays are, use “the shadow test.” If your shadow is shorter than you are, that means the sun’s rays are the strongest, and that’s when it is most important that you protect yourself.
Also know cloudy days don’t deter UV rays, and even if it’s still cool outside but the sun is shining – UV rays are still strong. Many people end up with sunburns because it’s a hazy day and ignore the fact that UV rays are still pushing through the clouds. Likewise, people may spend an entire day in the sun just because the weather feels a bit cool, but the temperature has nothing to do with the strength of UV rays.
Think about people who spend winters on the ski slopes. Ever notice the sunburns on their faces after removing ski apparel? Proof that UV rays are penetrating the earth no matter the temperature outside.
Bottom line: It’s always good to protect your skin. As warmer weather approaches, most people begin wearing clothing that exposes more skin – offering more areas for UV rays to ultimately do damage. This blog isn’t meant to deter you from having fun outdoors, or to love beautifully sunny days.
It’s just a reminder to be aware, protect your skin and be sure to talk to your doctor if you notice any changes in color and/or size of moles, freckles or other odd growths anywhere on your body. In our ongoing discussion of the importance of annual checkups – this is another reason why. Your PCP has it on his or her list to look for signs of any sun damage each visit to be sure anything questionable can be caught and treated early.