May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, and it’s an appropriate time to address how to stay safe while enjoying the warm sunny days ahead. Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the United States. By learning about the steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer, you can enjoy the outdoors without being affected by harmful UV rays.

How Can I Protect My Skin?

1. Sunscreen

The number one thing to protect your skin is to use sunscreen, always. Use brands with an SPF (sun protection factor) of 30 or above. Read the label of the sunscreen bottle and opt for a brand that has broad spectrum protection, which protects against both UVA and UVB rays.

When applying sunscreen correctly, remember that 1 hour of wearing SPF 30 sunscreen is equivalent to 2 minutes with no protection from the sun. Always re-apply sunscreen each hour. Many people don’t re-apply or simply forget to reapply each hour, and sunburns are a result.

2. Seek Shade Whenever Possible

Seek shade under trees, awnings, or even cover your skin with a towel or light clothing to help protect your skin from the sun. Wear sunglasses and a hat to protect areas exposed to intense sun like ears, forehead, nose, eyes and scalp. If you’re somewhere near water, wearing a hat with a non-reflective underside to the brim will help with the sun’s reflection from the water.

3. Learn the Warning Signs of Skin Cancer With a Self Skin Exam

Education can help you recognize early signs of skin cancer. The American Cancer Society has a very helpful list of what to look for during a self skin exam. Since skin cancer can show up in many shapes and sizes, pay attention to any abnormal looking spots on your skin. Skin cancer can appear even in areas that are not often exposed to the sun. If you notice a mole appear that didn’t used to be there before, or if you find a mole or skin spot that looks odd in shape or color, make an appointment as soon as you can with your doctor.

Knowing how to spot skin abnormalities and understanding the importance of sun protection is the first step in protecting yourself from damaging UV or UVB rays. Sharing this information with your friends and family is also a great way to spread awareness and help protect others! Enjoy the sun, but be smart at the same time.