The indoor tanning craze has thankfully slowed down in recent years, but with summer right around the corner and the benefits of sunscreen largely disputed, it’s hard to know how to prevent it. No matter what your skin tone (yes, even dark skin is at risk of melanoma), you should take these precautions to protect yourself from the sun:
1. Get a yearly skin check from your dermatologist. It’s sad for me to admit, but the first full-body skin check I ever had was when I was 23 years old. Living in Arizona for eight years had left me with a warm glow almost yearround, a tan I was proud of. It wasn’t until I moved to Chicago that I started realizing how much damage I had done to my skin over the years. I started making my yearly dermatologist appointments a priority. The key is catching abnormal skin cells early before they become cancerous.
2. Avoid sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Some days you don’t have the luxury to pick when and where you’ll be out in the sun, but if you do, try to schedule outdoor time before 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. This will help you to avoid the most harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays in spring and summer that can be damaging to your skin and increase your risk of melanoma.
3. Don’t give up that coffee habit just yet. Drinking coffee may be associated with a lower risk of developing skin cancer later in life. According to the recent study, drinking four or more cups of coffee was associated with a 20 percent risk reduction compared with those who drank none. While it’s not recommended that you increase your coffee drinking habits, there finally is an upside if you already consume mass amounts of coffee daily.
4. Wear a wide-brim hat. Thankfully, hats are back and there are so many tutorials on the Web for how to wear your hair with them. If you’re going to be in the sun for an outdoor brunch, sports event, or swim, pack a wide-brim hat to protect your face and shoulders from the sun. You’ll also look totally vogue and mysterious, so that’s just a bonus.
5. Focus on your diet. Research indicates that a diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables can reduce the risk of all cancers, including skin cancer. Many fruits and vegetables also contain antioxidants (vitamin C and E) that neutralize and remove potentially damaging toxins called “free radicals” from the body. You’ll also see a benefit in your waistline!
6. Cover up. When you’re going to be out in the sun, don’t rely on the cropped tank top to help protect your skin. Wear light, long-sleeve fabrics to protect your shoulders and arms from the sun. At the beach, be sure to wear a coverup as well if you’re going to be out of the water. If you’re in the water, consider getting a long-sleeve rashguard (like the surfers wear) to protect your skin with SPF fabric.
Let us know what you’re doing to prevent skin cancer in the comments below!