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Tips on how to prevent skin cancer

April 15, 2013 by Works with Water


After reading the shocking reports that skin cancer is on the increase, in The Independent this weekend, we thought it would be useful to do an article about ways in which you can decrease your risk.

About 9 in 10 non-melanoma skin cancers (Non-melanoma skin cancer refers to a group of cancers that slowly develop in the upper layers of the skin) are thought to be caused by excessive exposure to the sun. In particular, episodes of sunburn greatly increase your risk of developing skin cancer.

So what is it about the sun? The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation and it is this that does the damage. There are two types of UV radiation – UVA and UVB. Skin cells that are damaged by these UV rays are at greater risk of becoming abnormal and cancerous.


  1. Limit your sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Source:
  2. Use sunscreen. David J. Leffell, M.D., professor of dermatology and surgery at Yale School of Medicine, recommends choosing a broad-spectrum sunscreen, which offers greater UVA (as well as UVB) protection. To check if a product fits the bill, look for UVA-screening ingredients, including avobenzone (Parsol 1789) and ecamsule (Mexoryl SX). Or use zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are physical blocks that protect against all rays. Source: WebMD
  3.  Use sunscreen EVEN IN WINTER or CLOUDY DAYS. You really can get skin cancer when the sun don’t shine. Also, remember, UV rays can reflect off water, cement, sand and snow. Source: Globe & Mail
  4.  Your lips need protection too, use an SPF 15 or higher lip balm. Source:
  5.  Cover up the body as much as possible when you are out in the sunshine by wearing wide-brimmed hats to protect the face and neck, loose baggy T-shirts and baggy shorts (The material should be tightly woven to block out sunlight) and wear wrap-around sunglasses – your eyes can get sun damage too. Make sure the sunglasses are labelled as providing protection against UV light. Source:
  6.  Your daily coffee fix may help you fend off skin cancer. For each cup of caffeinated java that you drink every day, there’s a 5 percent drop in your odds of developing non-melanoma skin cancer later in life, researchers recently reported. Source: WebMD
  7. Ditch those sunbed sessions. Despite what the salon receptionist may say, there’s no evidence that browning yourself in a bed is any safer than doing it at the beach.
    Here are the facts: People who frequent tanning salons are 2.5 times more likely to develop squamous cell cancer and 1.5 times more likely to develop basal cell cancer. But even if you’ve given up the habit, you could be in trouble. Exposure to tanning beds before age 35 significantly increases your risk of melanoma.
    Source: WebMD
  8. Examine your skin regularly. Performed regularly, self-examination can alert you to changes in your skin and aid in the early detection of skin cancer. Our next post will go into more detail about the key signs of skin cancer.

However don’t go to extremes…

In order to be healthy you need a certain amount of sun exposure so that your skin can make Vitamin D, as there is very little found in the foods that we eat. There is concern that some people may go to the extreme of avoiding the sun altogether and then become deficient in vitamin D. The aim is to enjoy the sun sensibly, so as to make enough vitamin D, whilst not increasing the risk of skin cancer.

It is estimated that, to prevent a vitamin D deficiency, we need 2-3 sun exposures per week in the summer months (April to September). Each exposure should last 20-30 minutes and be to bare arms and face. It needs to occur in direct sunlight and not through a window. It is not the same as suntanning and sunburn should be avoided at all costs. Source:

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