According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, almost 77,000 new cases of invasive melanoma will be diagnosed in the United States in 2013. What’s more, skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S. and treatment of non-melanoma skin cancers increased by nearly 77 percent between 1992 and 2006.
Not surprisingly, the majority of skin cancer is caused by exposure to the sun.
We also know that sun exposure causes wrinkles and a recent study proves that protecting skin from the sun is the most effective way to combat premature aging skin. It’s better than any expensive skin cream on the market.
So, with all this knowledge, why do so many of us still skip the daily application of sunscreen, except if we’re at the beach? Even if we are vigilant about our faces, we expose parts of our bodies to the sun daily, without realizing the harm. Too many of us think if we slather sunscreen on our faces, we’re protecting everything, or that our clothes protect us from the sun’s rays.
We couldn’t be more wrong.
Here’s a check list of those areas where you should be rubbing in the SPF 50 every day, rain or shine:
- Back of hands: They are frequently exposed to the elements, all year long. Many of us slather on hand cream to keep them soft and smooth, but a much smarter choice is a daily dose (or several doses) of sunscreen with an SPF of 50. There are certain hand creams that have sunscreen built in, but you can use on your hands what you’re using on your face, with most of it going onto the back of your hands and fingers. Reapply after washing hands. Carry a small tube in your bag and car, and stash some in your desk at work. It’s the best way to protect your hands from the sun and keep brown spots (and cancer) away.
- Ear lobes: Every morning when I apply my moisturizer with broad spectrum SPF 50, I always smooth a little around the tips of my ears and lobes. Depending upon how you wear your hair, ears can be just as exposed to the sun as your face, and can easily succumb to skin cancer if not properly protected. While you’re at it, don’t forget the back of your neck.
- Chest: A few years ago during an annual visit to the dermatologist, the doctor spotted a small, suspicious looking red bump on my chest. A biopsy was performed and sure enough, it was basal cell carcinoma. I went to a specialist who performed MOHS surgery to remove it. I realized, of course, that all these years I had been applying moisturizer with sunscreen to my face, completely ignoring my chest and neck area, believing they were protected by clothes. In fact, that “v” area on my chest where my shirts and sweaters were not covering up my skin left the area completely vulnerable to the sun. Now, I apply sunscreen to my face, neck and chest every day.
- Tops of feet and ankles: Let’s say you’ve just put on slacks and a cool pair of loafers to go with them. And because it’s summer, you’re not wearing socks. If you’re walking around, doing errands, sitting in your garden, doing anything at all where sun (including the rays hiding behind the clouds) can hit the exposed skin on top of your feet and around your ankles, you should protect the areas with sunscreen. And if you’re walking around with no shoes at all, or with open toe sandals, make sure you get sunscreen on your feet and between your toes, too.
- Scalp: This is an especially vulnerable area for men, who typically experience thinning hair more often than women. But even women should consider dabbing sunscreen around the hairline and where hair parts. I started rubbing sunscreen onto my daughters’ scalps when they were very young, and I nag them to continue the ritual whenever they know they’ll be exposed to the sun, like at the beach. Of course, it’s best to top it off with a broad-brimmed hat. In fact, wear a hat and sunglasses whenever possible and visit a dermatologist every year for a full body check.
In case you missed it, here’s the latest episode of The Best of Everything, an AARP YouTube Channel original video series:
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