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Protect yourself against skin cancer

What’s your risk?

Although anyone can get skin cancer, certain people are more likely to develop it than others. The risk is greatest for individuals with light hair, blue eyes and fair skin that burns easily and for those constantly exposed to the sun, such as construction workers and landscapers. Anyone with a previous skin cancer or a family history of skin cancer faces extra risk. A history of painful or blistering sunburns in childhood also increases an adult’s risk of developing the disease.

Can’t wait to hit the beach this summer? Well, keep your shirt on—and your hat, sunglasses and sunscreen—because ultraviolet (UV) rays are responsible for more than 90 percent of all skin cancers.

The most common type by far, basal cell carcinoma, accounts for 80 percent of all skin cancers and most often occurs on parts of the body exposed to the sun. It can appear as a sore that doesn’t heal; a red, irritated patch that crusts or itches; a smooth growth with a rolled border; a shiny bump that’s either pink, brown, red, white or pearly; or a waxy, scarlike area. Luckily, basal cell carcinoma is slow growing, and the cure rate is greater than 95 percent when caught early.

It’s also one of the most preventable forms of cancer. To reduce your risk, follow these strategies:

  • Cover up with a wide-brimmed hat, a scarf for your neck, long-sleeved shirts, pants and sunglasses—even at the beach!
  • Apply sunscreen in the morning as part of your normal routine. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen with a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher that filters UV light and apply it to all exposed areas of your body 15 to 30 minutes before going into the sun.
  • Avoid going outdoors between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • At the beach, reapply sunscreen at least every two hours as well as after swimming and perspiring.
  • Don’t use a sun lamp or frequent a tanning salon.
  • Give yourself a head-to-toe skin examination at least once every six months. Familiarity with your own skin—its bumps, blotches, birthmarks and so on—enables you to detect even slight changes. If you notice any, see your doctor.
  • Have a professional skin examination once a year.

These tips apply to everyone—from blondes with blue eyes to brunettes with brown eyes—so make a commitment to play it safe this summer … and all year long.


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