Hopefully you’ve been having a great summer, and have had lots of opportunities to enjoy being outdoors. Our bodies crave being outside—we all know how important it is to get our share of vitamin D.
While you’ve been out, you’ve also hopefully been using plenty of sunscreen and taking other measures to protect your skin from overexposure to the sun.
Too much overexposure can put you at risk for basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that forms on the top layer of skin. Basal cell is a nonmelanoma type of skin cancer—it’s typically not as serious as melanoma skin cancers, but that doesn’t make it any less serious. It can also be hard to notice since it’s slow-growing and often painless.
Some of the more common areas for basal cell to form are on the lips, ears and the top of your head.
If you see your doctor regularly, ask her to check for moles or other skin irregularities. The good news is that most basal cell carcinomas can be cured if they’re caught early, and they almost never spread.
Of course, the easiest way to avoid worry is to make sure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself in the sun. Here are a few tips:
1. Use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Some people may need a higher rating, so ask your doctor.
2. Don’t wait till you’re outside to put sunscreen on. Apply it a good 30 minutes in advance.
3. Don’t forget your lips! Look for a lip balm with SPF in it, too.
4. Consider where you spend time in the sun. Highly reflective surfaces, like near water or a shiny car, can cause burns more easily. Relaxing in a patch of grass is comparatively less risky.
5. Apply sunscreen even on cool or cloudy days. A lot of people mistakenly think they can’t get burned in the winter or on overcast days. Make sure you’re always protected on the areas where your skin is exposed.
6. Limit your time. It’s easy to get distracted and realize you’ve been in the sun for hours. Take frequent breaks in the shade. It can be refreshing to cool off anyway.