'Melanoma Monday:' How to stay safe in the sun & perform self-checks

Posted at 8:28 AM, May 06, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-06 09:13:45-04

(WXYZ) — May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and the first Monday of May is Melanoma Monday, with an effort to raise awareness about skin cancer and how to stay safe in the sun.

Temperatures are finally warming up across metro Detroit, and that means people will be outside in sunny weather with their skin out in the open.

Every year, over 5 million cases of skin cancer are treated in the United States, but Dr. James Forshee of Priority Health has three ways that you can limit the risk of sun damage.

The first way is to limit exposure, which means taking a break indoors or relaxing in the shade, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. when the sun's rays are the strongest. One good rule he says, is that if your shadow is shorter than you are, the sun is at its peak. On top of that, water and sand are reflective surfaces and can increase your chance of a sunburn.

The second way Forshee says to protect against skin cancer is to wear protective clothing, such as long pants, long-sleeve shirts and wide-brimmed hats. Tightly-woven fabrics block the sun's rays better than loose weaves and dark colors are better than light.

Finally, apply sunscreen, and reapply often. SPF 30 sunscreen blocks 97 percent of damaging rays while SPF 50 blocks 98 percent. It's recommended that you wear sunscreen, even on cloudy days, and adults use an ounce of sunscreen for their entire body. You should re-apply every two hours of sun exposure or after swimming or sweating.

Forshee said that you can also have a medical skin exam, especially if skin cancer runs in your family or you have a lot of moles on your body, or if any of your current moles have changed in size, shape or color.

Performing self-checks every month for suspicious spots is also a simple and quick way to detect and prevent skin cancer.