Nothing feels better than soaking up the sun’s rays, especially after a long winter or a stretch of cold and rainy weather. As good as it feels, however, extended time in the sun can damage your skin, and even be the cause of skin cancer.

Skin cancer has become the most common form of cancer in the United States. It’s on the rise too, especially melanoma, a particularly dangerous form of skin cancer. A diagnosis of skin cancer can be frightening and even deadly; but it with early detection, most skin cancers can be treated or managed.

One of the cornerstones of skin cancer prevention is a regular self examination of your skin. Look for any very dark or suspicious or irregular moles or moles that have changed recently. Also note any changes in the skin such as changes like scaling, growths or bleeding. When in doubt, consult with your physician. A second prevention must is an annual visit to your physician or dermatologist for an entire body check especially if you’ve spent a lot of time in the sun or if family members have experienced skin cancer. Most health insurance plans cover an annual preventative mole check.

1. Be aware of medications that are sun sensitive. This simply means that if you are taking certain medications, you’re more likely to burn in a shorter time out in the sun. Sun sensitive medications include birth control pills, blood pressure drugs, medications for diabetes, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, like Advil or Alleve.
2. Avoid tanning booths and sun lamps. They can cause premature aging and burns that can ultimately lead to skin cancer.
3. Always wear sun protection in the form of sunscreen. Use a full spectrum sunscreen, or at least one with a SPF of 30. Apply your sunscreen 20 minutes before going out into the sun, and reapply it every two hours.
4. Avoid the sun between 10am and 4pm. The damaging ultra violet rays are strongest during those hours.
5. Wear sun protective clothing. Lots of clothing manufactures are now making reflective sun clothing.
6. When outdoors seek shade. Hats, umbrellas and trees provide protection from the sun. And don’t forget your sunglasses!
7. Some of the worst sunburns occur on cloudy days. This happens for a couple of reasons. First, most people are unaware that the sun’s rays can easily penetrate cloud cover, and second, reflections from water, concrete, sand, glass or snow can be the source of sunburns, even on a cloudy day .
8. Avoid putting toxic chemicals on your skin. Get to know the chemicals and ingredients in your skin care products, especially deodorants, hair treatments and body lotions. Some can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
9. Children’s skin is even more susceptible to sunburn—take extra precautions with your little ones.

Be sun safe for the sake of your skin!