How to Prevent Skin Cancer (Besides Sunscreen)

There’s no way around it: Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation (mainly from the sun) is a major risk factor for most skin cancers, not to mention wrinkles, premature aging, and vision loss. According to the American Cancer Society, UV rays damage DNA in skin cells, which causes abnormalities in cell growth. Read on for more!

Add an antioxidant to your AM routine

‘Antioxidants play a huge role in skin cancer prevention,’ says Dr. Nichols. ‘I recommend using a topical vitamin C serum under your sunscreen daily to help fight off free radical skin cell damage from the sun and the environment.’ When shopping, look for formulations that contain between 7 and 12 percent ascorbic acid.

Wash your new sundress before you wear it

It turns out that tossing your new cotton (or cotton-blend) clothes into the washing machine two to three times before wearing can often permanently increase their sun-protection factor. (It has to do with the fiber shrinkage, notes the Skin Cancer Foundation.) For extra safety, consider including SunGuard in the load as well. This laundry add-in contains the sunscreen Tinosorb, which increases the sun-protective factor of clothes to 30. And it’ll stay that way for 20 washes.

Cover up better at the beach

‘Clothing is far superior to sunscreen when it comes to skin cancer prevention at the beach,’ says Estee Williams, MD, assistant clinical professor in dermatology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. However, not all cover-ups are created equal. For instance, once a T-shirt gets wet, it’s protection value decreases to about a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of 3, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Instead, look for beach cover-ups that have a UPF value of 30 or higher. ‘I recommend Coolibar and Mott50 products,’ says Dr. Williams.

Use protective makeup

‘Makeup, whether it contains SPF or not, is inherently sun-protective due to the pigments and minerals it contains,’ says Dr. Williams. ‘That said, all women who wear makeup should look for brands that also have broad-spectrum SPF in them because the benefit is additive.’ Bonus: A lot of SPF-infused foundations have other good-for-your-skin perks, like antioxidants.

See the derm

Between the ages of 18 and 40, you should see a dermatologist for a full-body exam every two years. After age 40, go annually. ‘We can spot moles that look suspicious before they turn into something that’s dangerous,’ says Dr. Nichols. ‘Plus, early skin cancers tend to be slower growing, so when caught early, you can prevent a lot of morbidity.’

Exercise outdoors during these hours

‘Studies show that long-distance runners have higher rates of skin cancer than others, likely due to prolonged sun exposure,’ notes Dr. Williams. No matter if it’s a bright day or overcast, the sun’s rays are at their strongest and most dangerous between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., according to the CDC.

‘Because of this, it’s best to schedule any outdoors workouts before or after these peak hours,’ says Dr. Williams. If you have to be outside when the sun’s directly overhead, wear a wide-brimmed hat.



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