As we head into 2024, taking care of our skin is more important than ever. With skin cancer on the rise, it’s crucial to stay up-to-date on the latest skin cancer prevention guidelines and strategies. Here, we delve into some of the most effective ways to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays and minimize your risk of developing skin cancer, straight from our skin cancer experts here at Feinstein Dermatology.

Taking Steps to Prevent Skin Cancer

Nearly 90% of all non-melanoma and melanoma skin cancers are caused by UV exposure, making most cases preventable with proper sun protection. Follow these tips from our skin cancer experts to keep your skin protected from damaging UV rays.

Wear SPF 15 or Higher Daily

A water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 should be part of your daily skincare regimen, no matter what your plans are for the day. Keep in mind that both UVB and UVA rays can penetrate clouds, and UVA rays can penetrate glass, so even if it is a cloudy day or you plan to be driving or indoors for most of the day, UV rays could still reach your skin. If you plan to be outdoors for an extended period of time, use at least SPF 30.

Apply two tablespoons (the equivalent of a shot glass) of sunscreen to the exposed areas of your face and body, using a nickel-sized amount on your face alone. If you are using a spray, apply an even layer until your skin appears shiny.

Don’t Rely on Combination SPF Products

Your main source of SPF shouldn’t be mixed with makeup or other cosmetic products. Makeup that contains SPF can be used as added sun protection, but can’t be relied upon as the sole method of sun protection. This is because most people do not apply enough makeup to achieve the full SPF listed on the package. Sunscreen also needs to be reapplied throughout the day, which is often difficult with cosmetic products.

Additionally, do not use a combination SPF and bug spray. Many sunscreen formulations become up to 30% less effective when combined with insect repellents and can increase the absorption of DEET, the most common insect repellent ingredient, into the skin. It is also not recommended to reapply bug sprays as frequently as sunscreen, making a combination product very challenging to use.

Wear Sun-Protective Clothing

On days when you plan to be outdoors for long periods of time, or if you are at a high risk for skin cancer, wearing sun-protective clothing can be a comfortable and effective option. There are lots of fashionable options to choose from these days, so it’s easy to find a style and fit that matches your preferences.

When shopping for sun-protective clothing, look for the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of the fabric. In order to meet the Skin Cancer Foundation’s recommendations, a fabric must contain at least UPF 30, though UPF 50 is ideal.

Finally, don’t forget to wear a hat that covers the tips of your ears, as this is a common area for both men and women to develop skin cancer. It’s often missed when applying sunscreen, and traditional baseball caps don’t typically cover this area.

Seek Shade as Much as Possible

Contrary to popular belief, a tan is not a sign of good health and does not solve common skin problems like acne or stretch marks. In fact, not getting a tan and seeking shade as much as possible is much better for your skin’s health and appearance in the long-run, as UV rays accelerate skin aging. Whenever possible, seek shade during peak sunlight hours between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. If you absolutely cannot be in a shady spot, be diligent about reapplying sunscreen and wearing sun-protective clothing.

Regularly Check Your Skin

Regular self-exams of your skin play a pivotal role in maintaining skin health and detecting potential signs of skin cancer early on. Skin cancer, including melanoma, can develop subtly, so performing regular skin exams can significantly increase the chances of catching early signs of its development.

Keep an eye out for any new moles, pimples, or other spots or lesions on your skin, as well as changes to existing moles or spots. Use the “ABCDEs” of melanoma as a guideline to pinpoint any unusual moles or skin lesions, making note of where they are located on your body so that you can promptly schedule an exam with your dermatologist for a more detailed examination.

Keep a Regular Appointment with Your Dermatologist

In addition to performing your own skin checks at home, it’s important to schedule at least a yearly exam with your dermatologist – though those at a greater risk of developing skin cancer should schedule more frequent in-office exams. Not only can it be difficult to examine some areas of your head and body yourself, but an untrained eye may also miss potential signs of skin cancer that a professional would pick up on.

Signs of Sun Damage on the Skin

Skin Cancer Risk Factors

Sun protection is important for everyone, but it is especially crucial for those who are at a greater risk for developing skin cancer. Risk factors for both non-melanoma skin cancers and melanoma include:

  • A family history of skin cancer
  • A personal history of skin cancer
  • A history of using indoor tanning beds
  • Fair skin and light-colored hair
  • Multiple or atypical moles
  • Older age
  • Smoking
  • Certain genetic conditions

If one or more of these risk factors apply to you, consider scheduling more than one yearly skin cancer screening with your dermatologist and be sure to perform self-exams in between.

In Summary

Although not all incidences of skin cancer are able to be prevented, the vast majority of cases are preventable with daily sun protection habits. Follow the skin cancer prevention tips outlined in this guide to help maintain excellent skin health and appearance this year and beyond!

To schedule your yearly skin cancer screening or if you have other questions regarding skin cancer or skin health in general, please call our Delray Beach office at 561-463-5948 or get in touch with us online.