How to reduce risk of skin cancer

Not all skin cancers can be
prevented, but there are ways to reduce your risk of getting the disease.

You can do this by limiting
ultraviolet (UV) exposure.

The best way to lower the risk of
non-melanoma skin cancer is to limit your exposure to strong sunlight.

Be sun-safe when you are outdoors
by protecting your skin with clothing. Some clothes give more protection than
others. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, or long skirts are the best. Dark
colours are better than light colours.

A tightly woven fabric protects
better than loosely woven clothing. If you can see light through a fabric, UV
rays can get through too.

Dry fabric is most often better
than wet fabric.

You can also protect yourself by
wearing a hat with at least a two- to three-inch brim all around, as it covers
areas often exposed to the sun, such as the neck, ears, eyes, forehead, nose,
and scalp. A shade cap, which looks like a baseball cap with about seven inches
of fabric draping down the sides and back, is also good.

A baseball cap can protect the
front and top of the head, but not the neck or the ears. Straw hats are not as
good as ones that are made of tightly woven fabric.

Use sunscreen and lip balm with a
minimum SPF of 15 or higher. Be sure to use enough – a palmful – and put it on
again every two hours and after swimming or sweating. Use sunscreen even on
hazy or overcast days. For sunscreen to work best, it should be applied about
20 to 30 minutes before you go outside.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking
that because you’re using sunscreen, you can stay out in the sun longer.
Sunscreen should not be used to gain extra time in the sun, because you will
still end up with damage to your skin.

If you want a tan, try using a
sunless tanning lotion. These can make you look tan without the danger. You do
not have to go out in the sun for these to work. The colour tends to wear off
after a few days.

Wear sunglasses. Wrap-around
sunglasses that absorb at least 99 per cent of the UV rays help protect your
eyes and the skin around your eyes.

Stay in the shade, especially in
the middle of the day between 10am and 4pm, when the sun’s rays are strongest.
Keep in mind that sunlight and UV rays can come through clouds, reflect off
water, sand, concrete, and snow, and can reach below the water’s surface.

Also avoid other sources of UV
light. Don’t use tanning beds or sun lamps. These also give off UV light and
can increase the risk of skin cancer. They are not a safe way to get tan.

Avoid harmful chemicals, such as
arsenic, which can increase a person’s risk of skin cancer. People can be
exposed to arsenic from well water in some areas, pesticides and herbicides,
some medicines, and herbal remedies. Arsenic has been found in some herbal
remedies imported from China.

Also, certain jobs, such as mining
and smelting, can also expose workers to arsenic.

Camila Muniz Ferreira is project coordinator of the Cayman Islands
Cancer Society