What You Should Know About Protecting Yourself From Skin Cancer

The skin is the body's largest organ. It protects against heat, sunlight, injury and infection. Yet, some of us don't consider the necessity of protecting our skin.

The sun is a necessity for life. It gives us the light and heat we need to survive.

However, too much exposure to Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can result in skin cancer -- especially melanoma, the deadliest form.

Did you know this preventable disease claims a life almost every hour of the day? And, in 2015, it is predicted that skin cancer will claim nearly 10,000 lives.

The are two types of UV radiation: UVA and UVB. Both have been linked to skin cancer and a weakening of the immune system.

Not only does it weaken your immune system, but your chances of the getting the cancer increase when you've had more than five sunburns.

What are UVA/UVB rays? They are rays which are not absorbed by the ozone layer. They penetrate deep into the skin and heavily contribute to premature aging.

Powerful UVB rays, which are partially absorbed by the ozone layer, mostly affect the surface of the skin and are the primary cause of sunburn.

Sunburns often occur when we’re not paying attention. We don’t notice them until the sun goes down and we’re staring at a giant lobster in the bathroom mirror.

July is UV Safety Month, and it’s important to be aware of the sun’s positive and negative qualities.

Simple things, such as remembering to wear sunscreen, are small pieces of the equation to help lower your risk of developing any form of skin cancer, or damaging your skin.

When it comes to picking the perfect sunscreen lotion, don't just base it on the coconut smell. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends the daily use of a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher.

So, what can we do to protect our skin? There are simple, everyday steps you can take to protect your skin from the harmful effects of UV radiation from the sun.

The American Cancer Society came up with this catchy phrase and reminder to “slip, slop, slap and wrap.” Slip on a shirt, slop on some of that delicious-smelling sunscreen, slap on that sombrero and wrap on some cool shades to protect your eyes.

When purchasing sunscreen, make sure it protects against both UVA and UVB rays. And when applying, use a generous amount on clean, dry skin at least 20 minutes prior to going in the sun to allow the active ingredients to soak into your skin.

Remember, don't just apply once; make sure to reapply every two hours or so.

If you can, try to stay in the shade or avoid being outdoors during the peak of the heat, which is around 10 am to 4 pm.

Once a year, schedule an appointment with your physician to do a full skin examination. It's always better to be safe than sorry.

Water may be a great way to stay cool in the heat, but make sure to use extra caution when near reflective surfaces such as water, snow and sand. They can actually reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can result in an increased sunburn.

Stay informed and understand UV index readings; the UV index measures the daily intensity of UV rays from the sun on a scale of one to 11.

A low UV index requires minimal protection (doesn't mean you can forego the sunscreen, just means your SPF can be the minimal 15); whereas, a high UV index requires maximum protection.

Don't let the overcast fool you; 80 percent of the sun’s rays can penetrate through clouds.

Many of us also turn to tanning salons during the off-seasons, but like the sun, tanning beds and sun lamps use UV rays that can cause sunburn, damage the skin and increase the risk of skin cancer.

The sun is great -- heck, we pay for flights to the tropics to feel the sun during the cold months, but it doesn't mean you can't be safe and sun smart.

Skin cancer is preventable, and this month, UV awareness is about bringing attention to a cancer we can prevent.