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Carene's Wellness Corner
Skin Cancer

8 easy ways to prevent skin cancer

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. One in five Americans will get skin cancer in their lifetime.

"Each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than all of the cases of breast, lung, prostate, and colon cancer combined," says Ellen Frankel, MD, chief of dermatology at Kent Hospital, who notes that melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to significantly lower your risk of getting skin cancer, Dr. Frankel says. In addition, if it's caught early on, skin cancer is often treatable and may be cured. Take these eight precautions to ensure that you aren't the next statistic.

1. Wear proper clothing. When you're in the sun, wear clothing containing ultraviolet protection factor (UPF). This clothing consists of tightly woven fabrics made of lycra or elastane. You would also be wise to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Consider wearing a long-sleeved shirt and pants for even better protection from sun damage.

2. Slather on the sunscreen. When outdoors, apply one ounce of sunscreen (about the size of your palm) to all exposed areas--even on cloudy days. Thoroughly rub it into your skin. Don't forget about the tops of your feet, ears, and neck. Reapply every two hours or after being in water.

Buy sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 that is broad spectrum. This will protect you from both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. Sunscreen should also contain zinc oxide or titanium oxide, Dr. Frankel says. Keep in mind that "water resistant" means that it will protect your skin for 40 to 80 minutes of swimming or sweating.

3. Seek shade. Avoid sun exposure between 10 am and 2 pm, when the sun's rays are the strongest. If your shadow seems to be shorter than you are, find shade or stay indoors.

4. Avoid intensifying conditions. Being around water, sand, or snow will make you more susceptible to burning because these surfaces reflect and intensify the sun's damaging rays, Dr. Frankel says. This will increase your chances of getting sunburn.

5. Get vitamin D elsewhere. Don't seek sun exposure to get vitamin D. Instead, eat a healthy diet containing foods rich in vitamin D or take supplements.

6. Forgo a tan. There is no healthy way to get a tan, Dr. Frankel says. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause wrinkles to form as well as skin cancer. Note that if you use a self-tanning product or spray, you should also use sunscreen along with it.

7. Check your skin. When checking your skin for potential problems, look for a change in a mole's color or shape, or a sore that doesn't heal.

8. Visit a dermatologist annually. Regardless of your age, go to your dermatologist once a year for a full body check.

- By Karen Appold

Care New England
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