How to reduce risk 
of getting skin cancer

 Most skin cancers are preventable. The single most important thing you can do to lower the risk of skin cancer is to limit your exposure to strong sunlight.

People who work outdoors are at the highest risk of developing skin cancer. To protect yourself, follow these skin cancer prevention tips:

Avoid the sun during the middle of the day. The sun’s rays are strongest between about 10am and 4pm. You absorb UV radiation year-round, and clouds offer little protection from damaging rays.

Sunlight also reflects off water, sand, concrete, and snow, and can reach below the water’s surface. Sunburns and suntans cause skin damage that can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. Sun exposure over time may also cause skin cancer.

Wear sunscreen and lip balm year-round. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15.

Use a generous amount of sunscreen on all exposed skin, including your lips, the tips of your ears, and the backs of your hands and neck. Apply every two hours and after swimming or sweating.

For it to work best, sunscreen should be put on about 20 to 30 minutes before you go outside. If you are using a sunscreen spray lotion, keep the spray bottle close to the part the body you are spraying. If you spray from too far away, you may not cover all skin that the sun’s rays will touch.

Sunscreen should not be used to gain extra time in the sun, it will wear off eventually and you will still end up with damage to your skin.

Wear protective clothing. Cover your skin with dark, tightly woven clothing that covers your arms and legs, and a broad-brimmed hat, which provides more protection than a baseball cap or visor does.

Some companies also sell photo protective clothing. A dermatologist can recommend an appropriate brand.

Don’t forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types of UV radiation — UVA and UVB rays. Wrap-around sunglasses that absorb at least 99 per cent of the UV rays help protect your eyes and skin around the eyes.

Avoid tanning beds and sun lamps. Tanning beds and sun lamps emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.

If you want a tan, a sunless tanning lotion gives a tan without the danger. You do not have to go out in the sun or use beds and lamps for these to work. The colour will wear off after a few days.

Be aware of sun-sensitising medications. Some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics; certain cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes medications; and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin and others), can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight.

Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the side effects of any medications you take. If they increase your sensitivity to sunlight, take extra precautions to stay out of the sun in order to protect your skin.

Check your skin regularly and report changes to your doctor. Examine your skin often for new skin growths or changes in existing moles, freckles, bumps and birthmarks.

With the help of mirrors, check your face, neck, ears and scalp. Examine your chest and trunk, and the tops and undersides of your arms and hands.

Examine both the front and back of your legs, and your feet, including the soles and the spaces between your toes. Also check your genital area and between your buttocks.

Also avoid harmful chemicals. Certain chemicals, such as arsenic, 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). Certain jobs, such as mining and smelting, can also expose workers to arsenic.

Despite recent claims about sunscreen safety, consumers should rest assured that sunscreen products, and specifically the ingredients oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, are safe and effective when used as directed. Sunscreens should be considered a vital part of a comprehensive sun protection regimen.

Victoria Anderson is project coordinator of the Cayman Islands Cancer Society.

Don’t forget sunglasses. Look for those that block both types of UV radiation — UVA and UVB rays. Wrap-around sunglasses that absorb at least 99 per cent of the UV rays help protect your eyes and skin around the eyes.

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