May is Melanoma Awareness Month, so we are going to feature weekly sets of sun protection secrets from Mona Gohara, M.D., FITNESS advisory board member and assistant clinical professor of dermatology at Yale University. Get set to up your sun smarts and stay safe all summer!
Day 1: Skin cancer is the most common malignancy in the United States. Each year there are more new cases of skin cancer than the combined incidence of breast, prostate, lung and colon cancer. Protect your largest organ by getting yearly checks by a dermatologist and examine your own skin monthly. The silver lining? Most skin cancers are curable if caught early.
Day 2: 90% of the visible signs of aging are caused by daily sun exposure. Ultraviolet A rays cause brown sun spots, wrinkles, saggy skin and the breakdown of collagen. An easy fix? Daily sunscreen application to the face and hands. SPF 30 or higher is ideal.
Day 3: Talk to the hand! Damaging ultraviolet rays come through the windows of most cars, leaving your hands (as they rest on the steering wheel) and the left side of the face, most vulnerable to unwanted sunspots and wrinkled skin. Apply sunscreen to the backs of your hands before and after your commute, and enjoy the appearance of youthful hands for years to come!
Day 4: Protect those gams. The most common place for melanoma in women is the calves! Avid runners, swimmers, tennis players and other outdoor sports enthusiasts should be particularly cautious. For ultimate protection, slip on sun-protective workout gear and apply sunscreen.
Day 5: Melanoma is the most common cancer in women between the ages of 25 and 29. The culprit? Tanning beds. “Parlor” patrons are exposed to 12 times the annual UVA dose compared to the dose they receive from outdoor sun. Tanning bed devotees younger than 35 increase their melanoma risk by 75%. Look for moles that are asymmetric (one side is not the mirror image of the other), have an irregular border /color or those that are larger than the size of a pencil eraser. Pay close attention to subtle symptoms, such as pain, soreness, itchiness or a visceral compulsion to recurrently examine a mole—these are all reasons to pick up the phone and dial your derm.
Day 6: Fifty percent of Americans will have at least one skin cancer by the age of 65. Remember if you can spot it, you can stop it. Look for any spots on the skin that are bleeding, oozing, crusting or not healing. These are all potential signs of skin cancer.
Day 7: When it comes to skin cancer prevention, women are better listeners. A recent study published in the Archives of Dermatology revealed that when men and women melanoma patients were surveyed up to a decade later, women were more likely to have adjusted their behavior towards sun protection. Results of a separate questionnaire showed that women more often seek skin exams because of a concerning mole or fear of previous sun exposure. Men on the other hand, were usually inclined to get skin checks only after a diagnosis of skin cancer. Tip: Make a date for annual his-and-hers derm appointments!