Today is Melanoma Monday

I have a confession to make: I haven’t always been good about putting on sunscreen. I remember a few summers in particular—two when I was a lifeguard, the third when I was a canoeing counselor—when I’d hastily slather on a bit of block in the beginning of the summer (never reapplying, of course), then by the end of August, I’d head off to work with perhaps a few dabs on my shoulders and nose. I’ve since reformed my ways, but knowing that 1 in 5 Americans will be diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime makes me wish I had become sunscreen savvy a little sooner.

 

In my effort to take better care of my skin now, I asked Latanya Benjamin, M.D., a dermatologist at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Menlo Park, California, to give me (and you!) a quick reminder of sun-safe practices:

  • Look for broad-spectrum sunscreens, which block both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF between 30 and 50.
  • Check the active ingredients list for titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which are especially good for kids’ sensitive skin.
  • Put it on before you leave your house and reapply every two hours. A golf ball’s worth of sunscreen will cover the entire body.
  • Whenever possible, stay inside or seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are strongest.
  • In addition to sunscreen, wear a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and loose fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants when you’re in the sun.

 

Finally, I also plan to take part in one of the free skin cancer screenings happening in New York in May. It’s sobering to think that just one blistering sunburn in childhood can double your risk of developing melanoma, but since I can’t change my past, it helps to know that, when caught early, skin cancer is very treatable. Find a screening in your area by clicking here.

 

 Image: Mom putting sunscreen on her child via Shutterstock.

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