How to Prevent Melanoma and Still Have Fun

While fun in the sun seems like the perfect way to pass the summer months, all of us should be careful about how much sun we get. In honor of national melanoma awareness month, this post will look at how to prevent melanoma and keep you and your family safe in the sun.

How to Prevent Melanoma and Still Have Fun

What is Melanoma?

Melanoma is a type of cancer that starts in the melanocytes — these are the skin cells that produce brown pigment in the skin and are responsible for skin tanning. This brown pigment is also why people with melanoma first notice a brown or black mole on their skin.

Melanoma is sometimes called malignant melanoma or cutaneous melanoma. Risk factors for melanoma include:

  • Fair skin
  • A history of sunburn
  • A family history of melanoma
  • Excessive ultraviolet light exposure (usually from the sun)
  • Many or unusual moles
  • Weakened immune system

If you have any of these risk factors, you will want to pay particular attention to your skin and protect yourself as much as possible from the sun.

How to Prevent Melanoma, Without Being a Shut-In

1. Seek Shade

Whenever possible, choose the shade over the sun. If you’re at the beach, or anywhere else where shade is scarce, bring an umbrella or some other shade with you.

2. Wear Sunscreen

Keep a broad spectrum sunscreen (for UVA and UVB) with SPF 15 or higher on hand wherever you go. It’s a good idea to keep it in the car or in your purse for those impromptu beach visits. If you will be very active, or in the water a lot, then choose a sunscreen that is water resistant and SPF 30 or higher — and apply at regular intervals.

3. Cover Up

Covering the skin is the best protection against melanoma — and it won’t wear off like sunscreen. Wear lightweight long-sleeved shirts, and invest in a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face (the skin on your face is thinner than the rest of your skin and more vulnerable).

4. Perform Regular Self-Exams

You should perform a head-to-toe self-exam for melanoma on a monthly basis. Use a bright light and a full-length mirror to see those hard-to-reach places. If you find a mole or other skin abnormality that was not there before, keep an eye on it, and schedule an appointment with your dermatologist.

5. Keep Newborn Babies Out of the Sun

A newborn baby’s skin is very delicate and can burn easily. Any baby under 6 months old should be kept out of the sun. After 6 months, you can use sunscreen on your baby.

6. Avoid Tanning Salons

The effects of tanning are cumulative, and regular use of tanning beds is harmful to the skin. In fact, studies show that individuals over 35 who use tanning salons for the first time increase their chances of developing melanoma by 75%! So do your skin a favor and stay away from tanning salons.

For more information on melanoma, check out our blog post, Melanoma Myths Debunked.

The key to melanoma is prevention and early detection. Now that you’ve learned how to prevent melanoma, you are better equipped to protect yourself and your family.

 

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