Safe-sun guidelines are the following 4 ways to protect your skin and reduce your risk of skin cancer:
Sunlight damages your skin. The sun is strongest during the middle of the day, between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During these hours, the sun can do the most damage to your skin. Sunburns and suntans are signs that your skin has been damaged. The more damage the sun does to your skin, the more likely you are to get early wrinkles, skin cancer and other skin problems.
Use a sunscreen or sunblock with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15, even on cloudy days. Use a lot of sunscreen and rub it in well. You should put the sunscreen on 30 minutes before you go into the sun. Put the sunscreen everywhere the sun's rays might touch you, even on your ears and the back of your neck. Men should also put it on any bald areas on the top of their head. Put more sunscreen on every hour or so if you're sweating or swimming.
Remember that using sunscreen is just part of a program to prevent skin cancer. To greatly lower your risk, you must follow all of the safe-sun guidelines.
If you have to be out in the sun, cover up your skin. A wide-brimmed hat will help protect your face, neck and ears from the sun. A hat with a 6-inch brim all around is the best. Baseball caps don't protect the back of your neck or the tops of your ears. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. Choose sunglasses that block both ultraviolet-A (UVA) and ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays. Sun exposure increases your risk of getting cataracts.
Wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants made of tightly woven fabric. If the clothes fit loosely, you will feel cooler. Special sun-protective clothes are available from several companies, like Solumbra Sun Precautions.
Don't use tanning salons. Tanning booths damage your skin just like real sunlight does.
Some doctors think it's a good idea to do a monthly skin check. Ask your doctor about this. If your doctor thinks it's a good idea for you, check your skin once a month for signs of skin cancer, such as irregular moles. The earlier skin cancer is found, the greater the chance that it can be cured. Try doing your skin check on the same date every month. Pick a day that you can remember, like the date of your birthday or the day you pay bills.
Stand in front of a full-length mirror and use a hand-held mirror to check every inch of your skin, including the bottoms of your feet and the top of your head. Have someone help you check the top of your head. Try using a blow-dryer set on low speed to move your hair out of the way.
Look for any changes in a mole or the appearance of a new mole. Any moles that appear after you turn age 30 should be watched carefully and shown to your doctor.
The "ABCDE" rule can help you look for signs of skin cancer. When you look at moles on your skin, look for the following:
A for asymmetry: A mole that, when divided in half, doesn't look the same on both sides
B for border: A mole with edges that are blurry or jagged
C for color: Changes in the color of a mole, including darkening, spread of color, loss of color, or the appearance of multiple colors such as blue, red, white, pink, purple or gray
D for diameter: A mole larger than 1/4 inch in diameter (about the size of a pencil eraser)
E for elevation: A mole that is raised above the skin and has a rough surface
You should also watch for the following skin changes:
If you notice a mole that has changed, or if you have a new mole that doesn't look like your other moles, visit your doctor. Skin cancer can be treated successfully if it's treated early.