You are having lunch at your favorite restaurant with four of your closest girlfriends, and the setting couldn’t be more idyllic: You’re eating on the outdoor patio, a slight breeze is blowing and the sun is shining brightly from a beautiful blue sky. What could cast a pall over such a perfect afternoon, not to mention make you rethink your choice to dine alfresco? The knowledge that current estimates indicate one woman in your group of five will eventually develop skin cancer.
Skin cancer—particularly the most serious type, melanoma—poses a significant threat to women’s health. The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates 31,200 women will be diagnosed with melanoma in 2015, making it the year’s seventh-most-common cancer for women. The ACS also predicts melanoma will claim the lives of 3,300 women this year.
Show Your Skin Some Love
The sobering statistics about melanoma come with one very positive caveat: You can do a lot to prevent melanoma and other skin cancers, such as basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.
First, eliminate bad habits, such as tanning. Spending time in a tanning bed exposes you to as much or more ultraviolet (UV) radiation as sunlight and significantly increases your risk of developing all types of skin cancer. Curtail working in the garden or exercising outdoors during the middle of the day when the sun’s rays are strongest; instead, get outside before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m.
Next, choose the most appropriate skin protection for each situation. If you expect minimal sun exposure—say, from driving to and from work and walking a couple blocks on your lunch break—broad-spectrum cosmetic products—including moisturizers, foundations and lip balm—with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher should provide adequate defense.
Planning to spend several hours outdoors? Thirty minutes before going outside, apply generous amounts of a broad-spectrum, water-resistant, SPF-30-or-higher sunscreen to all exposed areas, including the ears, back of the neck, hands and tops of the feet. Reapply every two hours.
Finally, consider your choice of clothes and accessories. Darkly colored, long-sleeved cover-ups, shirts and pants provide the most UV protection. Don’t leave home without a wide-brimmed, tightly woven hat to protect your scalp, ears, face and neck, as well as UVA- and UVB-protective sunglasses.
Preparing to spend time in the sun takes a bit of effort, but you’ll enjoy the outdoors more knowing you’ve done everything you can to keep your skin safe.