May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month

By , SparkPeople Blogger
With summer only a few short weeks away, many of us are beginning to make plans for summer trips to the lake or beach, while others head outdoors to work in the yard and garden. But before you make your way to the great outdoors, it is crucial to do all that you can to protect you and your family from the harmful effects of the sun.

According to the American Cancer Society, skin cancer is by far the most commonly diagnosed cancer here in the States, surpassing prostate, breast, lung, colon, pancreatic, uterine, and ovarian cancers combined. Each year more than 1 million people are diagnosed with skin cancer and this trend appears to be increasing with each passing decade.

So what can you do to lower your risk for developing skin cancer? Below are a few simple measures you can take while still allowing you to enjoy your time outdoors.

  • It is always best to avoid the mid-day sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. This time period is when the sun is at its peak and when UV rays can be most harmful.

  • Wear a hat and donít forget sunglasses, too. According to the American Cancer Society, hats with a brim are best for protecting ears, eyes, face, and the back of the neck. Sunglasses need to block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB radiation so be sure to read the label.

  • Always wear sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. This is true for runners, swimmers, cyclists, walkers, and for anyone who plans to be outside for any length of time. And reapply your sunscreen frequently, especially if you are in the water or sweat a lot. It takes the average person 1-2 ounces with each application to get the best protection. More is definitely better in this situation.

  • While wearing dark colored apparel may leave you feeling hotter then lighter colored clothing, wearing a dark tightly woven fabric offers much greater protection then a transparent thin type material.

  • Stay away from tanning beds and sunlamps. These will not offer you greater protection by allowing you to have a so-called base tan. These devices only increase your skin cancer risk.

  • Remember many of the sunís rays can pass through the windshield and windows of your car, so it is important to wear sunscreen even when traveling.

By taking just a few steps to protect yourself, you can dramatically decrease your risk factors for developing skin cancer. However, if you would like to participate in some of the countryís free skin cancer screening programs held this month, visit the American Academy of Dermatology website. There you can plug in your city and state to locate a facility where these free screenings will be conducted.

Hereís to a happy, healthy and safe summer!

What measures do you take to protect your skin from the sunís harmful rays? Have you ever been diagnosed with skin cancer?

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Because I lived at the beach my younger years, I was tan most of the year. I also went to college in Florida and was on a swimming scholarship so I was in the sun a lot. As a lifeguard during the school breaks, I think I've had more burns and sun exposure than is healthy.

As an adult I have gone to the dermatologist yearly to have the liquid nitro treatments. In April 2010 I was told I need to come in every 6 months.

While I still don't use sunscreen in the pool, I do use a face cream with SPF 15 afterwards. I do wear a SPF 50 shirt & hat, and polarized sun glasses while doing water aerobics. For swimming laps I don't use any protection.

For daily life, I wear one of two SPF50 shirts, and a hat with the same protection when I go outside. I really recommend the company for clothing with protection. Report
I'm checked every year--my mother had melanoma Report
I had basal skin cancer on my chest cut out only to have them say, oh we need to cut again. so I went to get a second opinion. This time they used Aldara cream, which is used for HPV and it worked. No more cutting, so far. I have to keep a close eye on it. Too many 2nd degree burns as a kid growing up in the tropics and in the 80s when we used baby oil to tan..yeah red head and freckles, you can imagine how much I tanned...not! So now I wear long sleeves and hats cover up. Report
I had basal skin cancer on my chest cut out only to have them say, oh we need to cut again. so I went to get a second opinion. This time they used Aldara cream, which is used for HPV and it worked. No more cutting, so far. I have to keep a close eye on it. Too many 2nd degree burns as a kid growing up in the tropics and in the 80s when we used baby oil to tan..yeah red head and freckles, you can imagine how much I tanned...not! So now I wear long sleeves and hats cover up. Report
My dad was a truck driver his entire professional career. For over 40 years he spent the majority of the time outside, loading and unloading cars from his trailer. Back when he started in the 60's they didn't know about sun and skin cancer. Now that he's retired, he's been to a skin specialist several times to have some non-malignant skin cancer removed. There is one spot he has to have checked every 6 months. Now he and my mom are terrified of the sun and sit in shade only and pack on the sunscreen. My mom also cannot go into the sun for medical reasons. But they still enjoy it. They sit on their balcony, in the shade, seeing the sun cast its brightness on everything etc. So yes, cancer is scary and when my dad was first diagnosed I thought the worst. But his doctor has taken care of it and continues to take care of him. Me, I avoid sunbathing and only go out when UV rays are lower...early/late morning to late afternoon/early evening. Report
I'm a red head. I always wear a hat when out side, and shades, and my make-up is SPf 10. Guess I need more. But saying indoors between 10am and 4pm. Get real. That is the whole day.
Does useing that "man tan" help?
Sorry, somehow I was answering a different question, but it landed here, no idea how to delete it... Report
YES, I took ONE first and probably last. It hurt my knees and my back to do the exercises in the water. I know that is not supposed to happen, but it did.

I was doing them same as everyone else. I would be willing to try it once more, but just once!!! Heck, I am about 15 lbs. LESS now, so don't know if the suit would still fit me! WOO Report
For good sunscreen at a reasonable price, contact your Avon lady. They even carry one with bug protection, too. I've used the children's one on my grandchildren and even myself. I can't remember the SPF but it's pretty high. I wish I'd grown up with sunscreen. Report
I was operated on for Melanoma on my right leg, it came back 4 times, the front of my leg is cut to the bone from the ankle to my knee. Its really ugly, but Im alive
its been 5 yrs since the last operation and so far so good, Also had basal cell and had Mohns surgery on my arm and chest.I go to Sloan Kettering in NYC for
my checkups every 6 months. I never used sunscreen and I think I learned my lesson and rather be milk white then in a box with a nice tan.Diamondlil220 Report
I am a fanatic about wearing sunblock and have been since my late 20's. I think that is why my skin looks as good as it does. I'm 37 and people always think I'm at least 10 years younger. Now that I have kids, I preach to them about the importance of sunblock at an early age. Report
For years I had be laying in the sun and trying to get a tan with only the results of of second and third degree burns. That is when I decided to be more careful I never considered having skin cancer. I had a stage 3 melanoma on my calf in 1996. My great aunt spotted it and kept instisting that I go it checked. When I did they did a biopsy and it came back stage 3 melanoma. They did surgery to clear it all. They tried a skin graph to cover the area, but it died two weeks later. God healed the area with filling in the big area. In this area where they cut it got smaller and there is actually some real skin not all scar tissue. God provided me with this healling. The surgery was all that I had to do. I have been free for 13 years of skin cancer. I have a big scar on my right calf. But it reminds me not be careful and get checked every 6 months to make sure there is no other spots. I have also been free of cervical cancer for 18 years. God has been wonderful to provide for me. I never lay out in the sun anymore. I always when boat riding or out for long periods of time I will put on the pf45 or higher sunblock. Report
We camp all summer, and though I am not a "sun worshiper" ( I can't sit in the sun long....get WAY too hot!), I'm outdoors most of the time. I never used much sunscreen on myself, though I slather my grandkids. But a year ago my DH had a melanoma on his nose removed. Now I'm more cautious! Report
I would appreciate it if someone at Spark would look into the research showing that many melanomas are related to UVA exposure more than UVB, to people who spend a lot of time indoors (windows filter UVB but not UVA). And also, the issues concerning sun exposure and the need for vitamin D. Sunscreen ingredients that protect against UVA include zinc oxide and titanium dioxide. Report
I never really took sunscreen/sunblock and SPF seriously, until I saw the photoblog of a man who died from skin cancer. It's just like at that moment - I got it. Skin cancer kills! It's very important to take care of our skin. Im sure that my daily moisturizer has a high SPF, and I wear dark colored clothing out whenever I can. Report
I am the queen of sunblock! I used to hit the tanning beds starting in April until my Aunt was diagnosed with cancer and her oncologist had a coronary about our use of "the beds". It has been over 13 years since I have been in a tanning bed, or been out in the sun without protection. My daughter smells like sunblock most of the time, her friends think it is strange but it is one thing I am not willing to back down on. Report
This is an excellent reminder to all of us. Many of us have been raised in an era where we worshipped the sun and only now in our forties and fifties are realizing the damage that has been done. As a representative for a skincare company, I am passionate about educating women (and men) on the dangers of sun exposure. This article is well written, please everyone take heed! I am working with a gentleman who has extensive skin cancer and it is devastating to him and his family. Take responsibility for yourselves and make those wise decisions - just as you are making wiser decisions through Spark People in your day to day care of your body. Report
I had a skin cancer scare about 2 weeks ago--it turned out to be non-cancerous. I'm very fair skin and burn easily, so I tend to stay out of the sun when I can, wear a hat and wear sunscreen. The thing I'm bad at is remembering to re-apply the stuff. Report
As a kid, using sunscreen wasn't really touted, though my mother would chase us with Coppertone SPF 4 when we were at the beach. I got one or two bad burns (usually on my shoulders) during the summer. Aside from a summer in high school when "lying out" using baby oil was considered cool, I really wasn't a sun bunny. I have inherited my mother's fair, English, freckled skin (I am dark-haired with hazel eyes), so I never really kept a tan for long, and I never (unlike one of my sisters) used tanning booths.

Since my early 20s, I have been cautious about sun exposure. This year, I discovered Oil of Olay face cream with SPF, and Lubriderm (skin cream) with SPF, so I apply both of these each day before getting dressed, even in winter. This is just for riding in the car, and "casual" exposure (i.e., walking to the car, getting the mail out of the mailbox, taking the dog out, etc.). But if I am outside for extended periods of time, I slather on at least 30 SPF. I like to think of my grandmother, who used to say my skin was "like peaches and cream." I want to protect that!

Last year, I had a misshapen mole removed from my upper left arm. Luckily, it was benign, but I will make a point of seeing the dermatologist more regularly. My father recently had over 40 moles and skin tags removed from his upper back, neck, and chest. Nothing was cancerous, but it is better to be safe than sorry - go have it checked out! Report
Please, please do your research! It is interesting to note that a majority of people who have melanoma do not spend time in the sun. You do need some sun before you apply sunscreen so that your body will produce enough D3, which is what just about ever cancer patient is deficient on. Do a search and you will find this and many more facts about it. Report
As a redhead, my mother made sure that it was drilled into my head about sun protection. One thing that was not even considered with regards to the sun was sitting by windows. Double glazing windows gave me sunburn during a hospital stay in February one year - it was snowing for 2 days and raining another 2 during the week i stayed there but I still ended up with red shoulders and a red neck from where my bed was positioned near the window.

I'm told that I have 5-10 mins of natural protection in the sun as a redhead with blue eyes. My brown eyed, redhead brother has 10-15 max before he will start burning while another brother with brown hair and green eyes as 15-20.

Always make sure that the sun protection you use is suitable for you and not just one for general family use. Report
I wear 50 or stronger spf sunscreen, but it's still usually not enough. I burn really easily. I started wearing sunglasses last year. I need to find a hat that I like so hopefully I can do that soon.

I don't go outside that often as it is, so it's not too big of a deal, but I do like to be as careful as possible as I can when I do. Report
I have melanoma in the family. My grandmother on my Mom's side and my Dad both had it. They have both since passed on. I went to a plastic surgeon a year and a half ago to see about getting liposuction. He circled a mole on my thigh and told me very casually to get it looked at. A month later I made an appt. with my primary care physician who said it looked fine but to be on the safe side he referred me to a dermatologist. He removed 4 moles and thought they all looked okay. A couple of days later I received a call back saying the one on my thigh was melanoma. I went in and had a huge chunk taken out. I caught it early so the prognosis is good, but I'm now going in every 6 mos. to get a full body check. I lived in the sun. Using baby oil and iodine to back into a golden tan. I spent 2 years addicted to tanning booths. I loved how I looked with a tan. I always kept my face covered in sunscreen though cause I didn't want the wrinkles. Hopefully I won't have any more melanoma but the likelihood is I will as I am fair skinned with blond hair and blue eyes and covered with moles. I have spent the last 50 yrs.l loving the sun just like my Dad. Now I stay out of it as much as possible within reason and use sunscreen daily. Report
Thanks for the article. I'm usually pretty good, but I've been traveling without the lotion a lot lately. Will get better, tomorrow! Report
I use Coppertone Sport SPF 50 when outdoors in the sun.

No Skin Cancer here, Thanks!
Great article! Report
Good article, but they don't have free cancer screeing in my area. Report
Last summer I noticed this teeny tiny spot in between 2 of my toes. Didn't think about it all that much but after it went from a reddish, brownish then to black. I decided to go to the dermo. He cut it out said not to worry about it, it didnt look like anything bad. 2 weeks later his office calls requesting that I come back in. That the spot came back positive for precancerous cells....okay. I go back in. He re-examins my toe makes sure that everything was removed. Then he gave me a full body exam. Just this past week I got one of my magazines and there's this big article about skin cancer and the types. I looking at all the pictures and captions for each type of skin cancers, there it is the last one on the list. The back spot...the most deadly form of skin cancer. You talk about being kicked in the stomach. I never gave that spot any more thought from the moment I walked out of his office. I heard what the doc said to me, but, I guess it really just didn't sink in as to what he was saying. Even with me now going twice a year for check-ups, I still didnt think it was "anything". I'm fair skinned, blonde hair and many, many moles. I notice new moles often. I'm always watching current moles and watching for new ones to appear. I dont go back now until July and have a spot or two that I feel are questionable... Report
I was disappointed to see that there isn't a screening in my state.
It was interesting to see someone saying how many people think skin cancer won't happen to them. I'm the other way I'll be amazed if I never develop it. I have all the warning signs except for having a skin cancer removed.
My Grandpa was Irish and worked outside all his life not that there was real sunblock until it was too late for him. It didn't kill him, his heart did, but he was always having spots cut out and many would be removed from the same spot over and over.
I received my 1st bad burn at a few months old. A family friend that was Native American was watching me and had me out with her kids not thinking about the white baby being able to burn. So I've had the tables against me from the beginning. Report
I'm a huge walker and I really haven't been doing anything to protect my skin, yikes. I got sunglasses but need to buy suntan lotion. Thanks for this important summer reminder! Report
I've noticed I get dark patches just below my eyes on either cheek and I'm convinced it's from driving and what comes through the windshield, even though I wear 15 or higher spf - I'm going to try and make it much higher when driving. Report
I have used face lotion with 15 spf for years, after I put it on my face I always rub the rest into my hands. I have noticed that my hands don't tan - using it everyday really is a foundation for protection. I also use sun blocker when I am out in the sun a lot but admit I do not use it all the time. Report
I had an aunt that fought skin cancer for 30 years and lost most of her face to it before she died. It began with a small, pimple that did not heal. I have a reaction to the sun and apply a 50spf sunscreen every day April thru September. And I live in a rainforest! When I'm in the sun, I do wear sunglasses and a hat, usually a long sleeve shirt as well. I have an appointment coming up for a dermatologist to look at some basal cells for removal. You can never be over protected from the sun. Report
I am sorry you lost your sister on April 1st. I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma July 2001, and again in September 2008. I have some long scars, but both times I have caught the cancer early and surgery is all I needed. It will be a life long battle for me as I have also had squamous and many many basal cell.

My doctor recommends Blue Lizard sunscreen and my daughter and I have been using it for 3 years and neither one of us has been surnburned while wearing it, and my daughter really enjoys swimming so we are out in the sun and water a lot. Report
My sister passed away on April 1st, 2009 from skin cancer. She fought for over 6 years, and she fought hard. I can't express enough how important it is to have your skin checked yearly and protect yourself. My sisters started on her shoulder, a spot that looked like nothing at all but ended up killing her. My sister was an avid tanner, she used tanning beds and layed out.
Please be safe, be responsible when it concerns the sun....if not for yourself, for your loved ones! Report
I wear sunglasses sometimes and a sun visor. I will start using lotion. Report
Thanks for the information, especially the hours to avoid the midday sun between 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM. I'm headed to Newport Beach CA and Manteca CA for a 2-week vacation and I definitely had planned on being on the beach or pool during those times. Will get an earlier or later start. Glad I read your article today! Report
Thanks for this article. I know first hand about skin cancer as I was diagnosed with squamos cell skin cancer a few years ago and , thank God, it hasn't come back. I just had a dry, itcy spot on my lip which wouldn't go away. My husband was going to have his precancer condition checked and I also made an appointment to have my lip checked out. Thank the good Lord I did. The minor surgery healed quickly and my lip doesn't look bad at all. Report
I try to avoid the outdoors during the peak hours of the sunshine, when I'm out in the direct sunshine, always use sunblock. Fortunate for me, my DH prefers my porcelain complexion. I love the fact that I'm always complimented by others who say I look much younger than my true age --I attribute this to not baking in the sun like many of my friends who now appear 5-10 years in advance of their age. Report
I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma about 10 years ago. It was caught in the early stages and removed and it hasn't re-occurred. I feel very fortunate that it appeared in a highly visible area--my arm--and that my primary care physician, who thought it wasn't anything serious, referred me to a dermatologist. ANY CHANGES to your skin should be investigated--my cancer looked atypical--it looked nothing like the examples that are usually shown.

I use sunblock 30 spf. I wear a hat and sunglasses. I even have a bottle in he car so if we go out and I forget. I also have to were lip gloss with 30 spf or my lips burn and get sore. Report
Tough to avoid the sun in SoCal - but we slather on the spf 45, wear hats and sunglasses (some), and try to avoid the hours between 11 & 3, especially in the pool. Report
I will definately take to heart the recommendations listed in the blog as well as those of some of the responders; however, I am so angry that this is what our lives have come to. By destroying the Ozone layer that protects us from the Sun's UV rays, skin cancer has risen in alarming rates since the '70's.

For more information and/or to join other activists who are concerned about protecting future generations from further harm, I've provided the following link:

MARY Report
My skin is so fair, everybody calls me "Snow White". My dad's whole side of the family has carrot-orange hair and transluscent white skin.. my mother's side are pure French, so dark features and skin.. I have almost no melatonin in my skin I never wear anything lower than SPF 100..
I have a swimming pool and my daughter slathers it on my back and I do the rest before going out.,, I use the waterproof, but still reapply when required,, I never lie in the sun on the deck but have always had freckles and moles..
Totally unrelated to that, I have been diagnosed with stucco keratosis..
YEars ago, a patient that i had, a 21 year old model with blonde hair and blue eyes, was an avid sunbather,,(went to the tannertoo!) she was on an antibiotic that warned her not to be in the sun,, she ignored,, she died with half her face missing, no lips, no left cheek and her gums were eaten off!! She could not speak, had to have tubes in her nose to breathe,, (her nose was eaten away too),, she wrote on her tablet that she was in constant agony, wanted to die to relieve the pain and was so sorry that she was more concerned how her friends felt about how she look, than her health and life!! She died the next day at the ripe old age of 21!!

Stupidity kills!! Take care of yourself people, your body is a gift!! Cherish it!! Report
Scarlett O'hara never went out in the sun and had an umbrella when she did, because FIELD WORKERS had sun tans, and pale skin showed you didn't have to work like that. TODAY we sit in offices and get pale, so SUN TANS show that we have time to relax outside. It is all about status. Report
That's interesting. I thought it was between the hours of 10 to 3 to avoid. I guess they added an extra hour. Idk. Report
To the member who shared about the concern of vitamin D. Your body will still absorb vitamin D with sunscreen on. I am going to the dermatologist to check a few spots. I am concerned about my daughter who tans throughout the year using a stand up tanning bed at the gym. I'll share this blog with her. Report
I am about to make a dermatologist appt. thanks for the reinforcement. Report
I have a wonderful dermatologist that keeps a clear eye on me. She found a spot on the bottom of my foot that looks suspicious. It was biopsied, found to have some precancerous cells, and had to be removed. of course, it extended into my foot so I had a hole in my foot for over a month while it healed. My point is I use sunscreen regularly but at the beach, I have never put it on the bottom of my feet. I love to lie on my stomach and read and I usually cover up but who knew the bottom of the feet could be a target for the sun? I know better now.
Be careful out there. Use that sunscreen! And always keep an eye on yourself. Report
Over the past 20 years I have had three basal cell cancers removed from my face and two from my upper arms. One even appeared on my vaccination. I was fortunate to see the words, "completely excised " on my report. I have learned to identify the keretosis when they appear. A small dry red spot that never goes away. It is sun damage and is easily removed with liquid nitrogen right in the Dr's office. I have used a moisturizer with sunscreen for years. I also use a foundation with spf 30 from Revlon. These are on my face winter and summer. Winter sun is just as harmful.
I personally don't like regular sunscreen for my face. I find it breaks out my skin but the moisturizers with sunscreen are okay. There are several good ones on the market. For my body I use Coppertone Baby Faces, 50. I find it goes on well and isn't so smelly and sticky. I guess because it was developed for babies.
Take care of your skin everyone. It is the largest organ you have and you need it to hold the rest of you together. Smile. Report
What measures do you take to protect your skin from the sunís harmful rays?
I do manage to avoid the sun between the recommended hours of the day.

Have you ever been diagnosed with skin cancer? I have not been diagmosed with skin cancer.

I suffer from Vitamin D Deficiency it is suggested that I get exposure to the sun.

This is the information that I gather on :

Ten minutes of sunlight on exposed arms and legs two to three times per week would significantly improve vitamin D production, but must be weighed against the risk for skin cancer, Ginde noted. Vitamin D supplementation is another way to increase levels. However, current recommended doses of vitamin D supplements are outdated and inadequate, he added

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