How can I help prevent sun damage and ultimately, skin cancer?

Nothing can completely undo sun damage, although the skin can sometimes repair itself. So, it's never too late to begin protecting yourself from the sun. Your skin does change with age; for example, you sweat less and your skin can take longer to heal, but you can delay these changes by staying out of the sun.

Maintaining healthy skin

  • Stop smoking: people who smoke tend to have more wrinkles than nonsmokers of the same age, complexion, and history of sun exposure. The reason for this difference is unclear. It may be because smoking interferes with normal blood flow in the skin.
  • Apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or greater 30 minutes before sun exposure and then every 2 to 3 hours thereafter. Reapply sooner if you get wet or perspire significantly.
  • Select cosmetic products and contact lenses that offer UV protection.
  • Wear sunglasses with total UV protection.
  • Avoid direct sun exposure as much as possible during peak UV radiation hours between 10 am and 3 pm.
  • Perform skin self-exams regularly to become familiar with existing growths and to notice any changes or new growths.
  • Relieve dry skin using a humidifier at home, bathing with soap less often (instead, use a moisturizing body wash), and using a moisturizing lotion.
  • Become a good role model and foster skin cancer prevention habits in your child. Eighty percent of a person's lifetime sun exposure is acquired before age 18.

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