by Jenny Gaal, Fitness Director

Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the main cause of skin cancer. However, UV radiation can also come from tanning booths or sunlamps. The most dangerous kind of skin cancer is called melanoma. The American Cancer Society estimates that more than 10,000 people will die this year from melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer.

Most important, wear your sunscreen of at least a SPF of 30 or higher. Set a timer to re-apply every 90 minutes and/or after you get out of the water. There is no such thing as waterproof — it will come off. You need some sun exposure for your vitamin D, so limited amounts of time in the sun are healthy- for most. If you are going to be out for hours, you need to put that sunscreen on and re-apply — the big thing is to avoid being sun burnt. Wearing a hat, or sunglasses, when out in the sun for long periods is also important; sun’s UV radiation can also damage the eyes.

The good news is skin cancer can almost always be cured when it’s found and treated early. Regular medical checkups can prevent skin cancer or detect it early on.

What to Look for?

*A mole, birthmark, beauty mark, or any brown spot that:

  • changes color • increases in size or thickness • changes in texture • is irregular in outline/asymmetrical • appears after age 21 • is bigger than 6mm or 1/4″, the size of a pencil eraser

*A skin growth that increases in size and appears pearly, translucent, tan, brown, black, or multicolored

*A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, crust, scab, erode, or bleed

*An open sore that does not heal within three weeks

Want more protection?

Besides the sun (more than half of the solar energy skin gets are from IRA rays), these rays can also come from heat. When you blow-dry your hair, or even get a gel manicure, your skin is exposed to them. IRA rays travel even deeper into skin than UVA and UVB rays, causing free radicals that further accelerate skin damage.  New SPF lines (Obagi, SkinMedica) now cover infrared protection.

What else can you do?

Potent antioxidants like vitamins A, C and E counteract the free radicals from sun damage and protect the skin.  Look for these ingredients in both supplemental and topical skincare forms.

When shopping for your next SPF consider a super broad-spectrum protection of UVA, UVB and Infrared screen. The largest organ in the human body is the skin- time to protect it.