Melanoma: Quick Tips: Skin Protection

  • Avoid the sun between 10 AM and 4 PM, when the sun’s rays are the strongest. Schedule outdoor activities for other times of the day, even on cloudy days. Clouds provide little protection from the sun’s rays. Check news reports for the daily Ultraviolet Index, which tells you how strong the sun’s rays will be.
  • Wear protective clothing such as long pants and a long-sleeved shirt whenever possible. Put a T-shirt on children when they are swimming.
  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat and protective sunglasses with broad-spectrum UV-absorbing lenses.
  • Sit in the shade when you are outdoors. Keep infants out of the sun altogether.
  • Don’t use a sunlamp or visit a tanning salon.
  • Know your skin and report anything unusual to your doctor. Also look for the ABCD warning signs of melanoma: Asymmetry, irregular Borders, Color that is not uniform or is black, and Diameter greater than 6 millimeters (about the size of a pencil eraser). If you have a mole with any of these features, or a spot on your skin that is changing in color, shape, or size, see your doctor. Learn how to do a complete skin self-examination, which can significantly reduce your risk of dying of melanoma and of discovering non-melanoma skin cancers at the earliest stages.
  • Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher on yourself and your children (and keep babies under 6 months of age out of the sun altogether). Apply sunscreen generously on all exposed skin a half-hour before going in the sun, and reapply after swimming or perspiring. Regardless of activity, reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days. Also use a lip balm with an SPF of 15 or higher. And remember to use sunscreen often, not just when you are visiting the beach or the pool. You are exposed to the sun when you walk from the car to the store, too.
  • Never seek a tan. Tanning is the skin’s response to cell damage from UV radiation — there’s no such thing as a “healthy tan.”