Today, for Sun Safety Week, we want to tackle an important subject, and it’s not one you might expect hear about from your friendly Houston gynecologist. When most people think about women’s health, a list of “obvious” issues comes to mind: breast cancer, pap smears, fertility, prenatal care… But not many stop to think about skin cancer.
That’s a serious problem. Each year, there are more than 5.4 million cases of non-melanoma skin cancer in the US – more than breast, prostate, lung, and colon cancer diagnoses combined. Researchers estimate that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer sometime within their lives.
Those numbers may sound worrying, but there’s some good news, too. Unlike many other common cancers, there are plenty of steps you can take to protect yourself from developing skin cancer. Around 90% of those cancer cases are associated with sun exposure, so taking smart steps to avoid UV rays when you’re out and about can significantly cut your risk for the disease.
Here are the steps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend to help you stay safe while enjoying the summer sun:
- Seek out some shade. One of the easiest ways to avoid excess sun exposure is simply to avoid direct sunlight. This doesn’t mean you should stay inside all day or become a hermit – it just means being smart about seeking out shade on bright, sunny days. An umbrella, tree, or shelter all offer comfortable options for avoiding a sunburn while enjoying the great outdoors. However, just because you’re in the shade doesn’t mean you’re completely safe, so take note of the other tips on this list as well for some added protection.
- Make smart fashion choices. What many people don’t realize is just how much sunlight our everyday clothes can repel. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and skirts can all protect your limbs from harmful UV rays, but we understand it’s not always practical to cover completely up during the warm months. Look for tightly-knit fabrics when you can, and remember: dark colors often offer more protection than light ones do. If it’s just too hot out to completely bundle up, consider wearing a t-shirt or a beach cover-up to help keep yourself shaded.
- Mix hats into your summer look. Not sure if there’s going to be shade available where you’re going? Not a problem – wear a wide-brimmed hat and create some of your own. This will protect your face, ears, and neck while you’re out and about. (If you wear a baseball cap, remember to take other precautions to protect the back of your neck!) Tightly-woven fabrics like canvas block more sun than straw hats, which often have small holes that UV rays can slip through.
- Protect your eyes with a pair of sunglasses. Your skin isn’t the only part of your body that needs protection from the sun – exposure can damage your eyes, too. Wearing a snazzy pair of shades will lower your risk of cataracts and help prevent skin cancer in the delicate area around your eyes. Most sunglasses on the market block both UVA and UVB rays, and wrap-around frames can help keep rays from sneaking in around the sides.
- And, of course, always wear sunscreen! Most people know you need to wear sunscreen on hot, sunny days – but what you may not realize is that even slightly cloudy and cool days can pose a risk to your skin. Cover any exposed skin with at least SPF 15 before you leave the house to reduce your risk. If you don’t want to slather on thick, white goo every time you leave the house, look for UV-blocking lotions and moisturizers instead. And don’t forget, your lips need protection too – consider using lip balm with SPF protection as well. Remember to reapply every two hours for continuous protection.
We may not be dermatologists, but we’re passionate about women’s health in whatever form it takes. At Southwest OB/GYN, we offer more than just routine gynecology services. Our focus is on total wellness, helping you live the healthiest life possible. We work with every patient to craft a unique health plan for her wellbeing. If you’re looking for a gynecologist in Houston, TX, set an appointment or call us today.