Rates of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, have risen 800 percent for young women (ages 18-39) over the past 40 years. Here are some common skin cancer mistakes – and how to fix them:
- Tanning beds. Don’t be fooled by claims that tanning-bed rays are safer than the sun – the lamps in tanning beds can give off 10 to 15 times the UVA radiation of normal sun exposure. In fact, your risk of melanoma increases by 75 percent when you use tanning beds before the age of 35. Avoid tanning beds. Instead, use a self-tanner.
- Don’t use sunscreen. Only 30 percent of women regularly use sunscreen both on their face and other exposed skin. You should apply an ounce (two tablespoons) of sunscreen to all exposed skin 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or right after you sweat a lot or go swimming. Use a water-resistant, broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher. Sunscreen doesn’t protect from all UV rays, so don’t use sunscreen as a way to stay out in the sun longer.
- Getting sunburned. Your risk for melanoma doubles if you’ve had five or more sunburns. The best way to prevent sunburn is to avoid sun exposure. Stay out of the midday sun (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.). 5 Ways to Treat Sunburn.
- Avoid wearing a hat. Many women don’t like the way they look in a hat. However, not wearing one in the sun puts your scalp at risk. Your hair offers some protection (more if it’s thick). To protect your scalp, ears, nose and neck, wear a wide-brimmed hat. For every inch of brim, you reduce your lifetime risk of skin cancer by 10 percent. Wear sunglasses, too
- Skipping skin exams. Once a month, exam your skin head-to-toe. Be aware of all moles and spots on your skin, and report any changes to your doctor immediately. See your doctor every year for a professional skin exam. How to Perform a Skin Self-Exam.