Melanoma is one of the most common types of cancer in the world, which should encourage you to get more serious about protecting your skin. The question is, what, if anything, can be done to reduce the risk of skin cancer over your lifetime?

5 Strategies for Reducing Melanoma Risk

Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer in the world. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation (MRF), one American per hour (10,000 per year) dies from it. In 2017 alone, it’s believed that an estimated 160,000 Americans were diagnosed with melanoma, and that more than half of these cases were diagnosed as invasive.

The good news – if there is such a thing – is that nearly 90 percent of melanomas are caused by exposure to UV light and sunlight. This means it’s a very preventable cancer. And if you want to reduce your risk, there are some specific things you should be doing.

  1. Seek Shade

Frankly, seeking shade is the best thing you can do for yourself when outdoors. Even if it’s not a particularly hot day, UV rays are still penetrating your skin and you need to do your best to protect yourself from overexposure.

Whether you realize it or not, shade is all around you. If you’re enjoying a lazy day on the lake, a boat umbrella or top can provide some protection. If you’re out in the backyard, a pergola or porch overhang will suffice. You don’t have to spend all of your time in the shade, but taking some breaks from full exposure is really important.

  1. Wear Protective Clothing

Clothing matters a lot. Despite what everyone else is doing, you should cover up as much as you can when exposed to the sun.

“When possible, long-sleeved shirts and long pants and skirts can provide protection from UV rays. Clothes made from tightly woven fabric offer the best protection,” the CDC advises. “A wet T-shirt offers much less UV protection than a dry one, and darker colors may offer more protection than lighter colors. Some clothing certified under international standards comes with information on its ultraviolet protection factor.

  1. Wear Sunscreen

Nobody likes feeling greasy, but sunscreen is an absolute necessity – all year round. You should look for a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 or higher. It’s also crucial that you select a product with both UVA and UVB protection.

  1. Avoid Tanning Beds

Whatever you do, don’t set foot inside a tanning salon. The lights used in a tanning bed emit UV rays that greatly increase your risk of skin cancer. In fact, research funded by the Melanoma Research Alliance shows that tanning bed usage increases the risk of melanoma by 75 percent. Stay away!

  1. See Your Dermatologist Regularly

Seeing your dermatologist regularly is an important step in caring for your skin. It’s not that a dermatologist can necessarily prevent melanoma, but they can help you identify it earlier – which greatly increases your chances of survival. It’s advised that everyone visit a dermatologist once a year, but you might want to schedule appointments more frequently if you have a history of melanoma in your family.

Be Proactive About Your Health

It’s very common for someone to live an unhealthy lifestyle, get diagnosed with a particular type of cancer, and then suddenly do a 180-degree pivot and live the rest of their life very healthily. A health scare will do that to you. But why should wait to get diagnosed with cancer before changing your life around? Take a proactive approach and you’ll greatly reduce your chances of developing melanoma and other preventable diseases.