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Know the ABCDEs of protecting your skin this summer

Aging Well | Safety | Wellness | May 26, 2021
Proper sunscreen application can protect you from long-term damage.
Experts recommend a variety of ways to shield your skin—even on cloudy days.

In the United States and worldwide, skin cancer is the most common cancer.

Experts recommend using multiple methods to fully protect your skin and scheduling an annual check-up with your dermatologist. Annual appointments may help find skin cancer early - when it can be more easily treated.

Protect your skin

What to wear for protection:

  • Protective clothing:
    • Wide-brimmed hats that protect the face and neck.
    • Tightly woven clothing made of thick material, such as unbleached cotton, polyester, wool or silk.
    • Dark clothing with dyes added that help absorb UV radiation or clothing that has sun protection factor (SPF) in the fabric that does not wash out.
    • Loose-fitting long-sleeved clothing that covers as much of the skin as possible.
  • Sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher, summer and winter, on cloudy and clear days. Apply sunscreen that blocks UVA and UVB radiation to all exposed skin, including lips, ears, back of the hands and neck. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going in the sun, and reapply it every two hours and after swimming, exercising or sweating.
  • Wraparound sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB radiation.

When and where to be cautious:

  • Stay out of the sun during the peak hours of UV radiation, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • Be careful when you are on sand, snow or water. These surfaces can reflect 85% of the sun's rays.
  • Avoid artificial sources of UVA radiation, including sunlamps and tanning booths. Like the sun, they can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.

A child's skin is more sensitive to the sun than an adult's skin and is more easily burned. Babies younger than six months should always be completely shielded from the sun. Children six months and older should have their skin protected from too much sun exposure.

Get to know your skin

Skin cancer, including melanoma, is curable if spotted early. A careful skin exam may identify suspicious growths that may be cancer or growths that may develop into skin cancer (precancers).

Examine your skin regularly. Get to know your moles and birthmarks. And look for any abnormal skin growth and any change in the color, shape, size or appearance of a skin growth. See the “ABCDE’s” below for more information about what to watch for.

Check for any area of skin that does not heal after an injury.

Bring any suspicious skin growths or changes in a mole to the attention of your doctor.

Know your ABCDE’s

Nope, not those ABCDE’s but rather what to look for in a mole or skin growth that are warning signs of melanoma.

  • Asymmetry: One half doesn’t match the other half.
  • Border irregularity: The edges are ragged, notched or blurred.
  • Color: The pigmentation is not uniform. Shades of tan, brown and black are present. Dashes of red, white and blue add to the mottled appearance. Color may spread from the edge of a mole into the surrounding skin.
  • Diameter: The size of the mole is greater than 6 mm (0.2 in.), or about the size of a pencil eraser.
  • Evolution: There is a change in the size, shape, symptoms (such as itching or tenderness), surface (especially bleeding) or color of a mole.

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