I get it, you’ve heard it a million times: “You know that will give you cancer, right?”. These days its becoming harder to get away from all the things that may or may not give you cancer. Its also hard to stay on top of all the ways you can reduce your risk of getting such a horribly life changing disease.
But here is some good news: there are some sure fire ways to help reduce your risk of getting at least ONE form of cancer; and that is skin cancer.
As a Radiation Therapy student at Laurentian, I’ve learned a lot about all forms of cancer and how to treat cancer with radiation. I have also learned that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer, an that it is also the most preventable form of cancer!
Since summer is finally upon us, we’re all sure as heck to spend as much time outside as we possibly can before the snow flies again. So here are some things you can do to protect your skin from being damaged by the sun this summer!
Check the UV index
Starting your morning off with a quick check of the UV index is a great first step. The UV index is an important tool you can use in order to know exactly how intense the sun’s rays are on any given day, so you know how much to protect yourself from the sun that day. With all the extreme heat warnings we have been getting in Sudbury this summer, this is especially important!
If the UV index is higher than 3, you need to make sure you are prepared for the day and protect your skin accordingly.
When the UV index is high, you may want to reapply your sunscreen more often, stay out of the direct sunlight for long periods of time and make sure you have your hat on!
Staying in the shade on a hot sunny day sounds like a crime when you live in a country with such a short summer, but it is an extremely effective way to keep your skin safe and healthy. Reducing the amount of time that your skin is exposed to direct sunlight is crucial in reducing your risk of developing skin cancer.
There are lots of ways you can get into the shade when spending your days outside:
- Hang out beneath a tall leafy tree; they’re great at filtering the sun’s rays.
- Bring an umbrella to the beach.
- Make your own shade: buy or build gazebo’s in your yard.
- Sit under awning’s on a restaurant patio.
Covering up sensitive areas of your body is another crucial part of being sun safe this summer. Some areas you want to make sure to protect from the sun are:
- Your ears
- Top of your head
- Back of your neck
These are all areas that are being constantly exposed to the sun’s rays, so make sure to cover them up when you can! Wear a hat, sunglasses and a breathable t-shirt to protect all those sensitive areas.
Use sunscreen properly
Wearing sunscreen is one of the most important steps to preventing skin cancer, and also one of the easiest!
Be aware of the SPF, and try to stick to using SPF 30 or higher. SPF 30 protects your skin from 97% of UVB rays, so make sure to pick one up and keep it with you while spending time outside.
One thing to always remember though, is to never use sunscreen instead of protecting clothing and a hat.
Make sure you apply sunscreen on every part of your body that will be exposed to the sun. Areas people commonly forget are the top of your nose and forehead, top of the ears and back of the neck, so keep those areas in mind.
Don’t use indoor tanning beds
Listen, I get it; being tanned and having that sun kissed glow is something everyone is always going to lust after, but tanned skin is damaged skin! Of course its impossible to avoid the sun (why would you want to?), and in the summer you’re going to get a tan no matter what, and that’s okay!
But its important to stop there. DON’T use indoor tanning beds to get tanned in the winter months. JUST DON’T DO IT.
Know the signs of skin cancer
Skin cancer is one of the most preventable forms of of cancer, and it is also one of the easiest cancers to detect.
Most skin cancers can be cured if caught early, so check you skin multiple times a month in a well lit room in front of a mirror. You know your skin best, so keep an eye on all your beauty marks and moles to assess any changes in their appearance.
You can also visit any of the Laurentian medical services that are available on campus if you are worried or curious about any changes in your skin.
Keep an eye out for:
- Red or pink patches that are scaly and don’t heal
- New skin markings such as moles, blemishes, discoloration or bumps
- Changes in the shape, colour, size or texture of a birthmark or mole
- A sore that doesn’t heal
- An abnormal area that bleeds, oozes, swells, itches or is red and bumpy
The most important thing to remember this summer is: HAVE FUN! Don’t let the sun stop you. Just make sure to top up on sunscreen, throw on that hat and those sunglasses and go enjoy summer!