With May comes beautiful warm weather that makes spending time outdoors enjoyable. There is a hint of summer on the horizon, excitement over Memorial Day plans and delight in breaking out shorts and skirts. However, while partaking in outdoor activities and getting your fix of Vitamin D from the sun’s rays, it is essential to take steps to protect your skin.
May is Melanoma Detection and Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about skin cancer and help people take action to prevent and detect it. According to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD), one in five Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. There are several health observances throughout the month of May dedicated to sun safety:
- Melanoma Monday (May 4): The first Monday in May is designated by the AAD to raise awareness of melanoma and other types of skin cancers and to encourage early detection through self-exams
- Don’t Fry Day (May 22): The Friday before Memorial Day is designated by the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention to encourage sun safety awareness and highlight the importance of protecting your skin while enjoying the outdoors
- Sunscreen Day (May 27): This day is a reminder to regularly apply and re-apply sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s damaging UV rays
Sun exposure is the most preventable risk factor for all cancers, including melanoma. Here are a few ways to still enjoy sunny days while decreasing your risk of skin cancer by protecting your skin from the sun:
- Wear protective clothing, such as a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Regularly apply waterproof sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher
- Seek shade, particularly when the sun’s rays are at its hottest from 10 a.m.–2 p.m.
- Avoid indoor tanning
It is also very important to be familiar with the spots on your skin. Although melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, when detected early, it can be effectively treated. Regularly check your body, including hard-to-see areas like your back, for signs of spots changing or growing. According to the AAD, 43% of people rarely or never ask someone else to apply sunscreen to their back and only 35% of people ask someone else to help them examine hard-to-see areas for signs of skin cancer. It is also helpful to use the ABCDE rule, which outlines the warning signs of melanoma by checking for asymmetry, border, color, diameter and spots evolving.
For additional information regarding skin cancer detection and prevention, please visit SpotSkinCancer.org.