This past weekend, thousands of North Carolinians soaked up a few rays enjoying the Memorial Day holiday, and no doubt a few are nursing a sunburn as they return to work today.
According to the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry, more than 2,500 people were diagnosed with melanoma last year.
Experts, such as Dr. Lauren Ploch, a dermatologist, say a large part of prevention comes down to being prepared before you head out the door.
“So, it’s important to protect ourselves, especially when the weather is nice and you want to be outside,” she says. “And I’m all for being outside during the summer. I love being outside myself. I love hiking and going to the beach. But as long as you protect yourself, you can cut your risk of skin cancer exponentially.”
If you do get a sunburn, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends cooling it with a cold compress, moisturizing while skin is damp to prevent or minimize peeling, and consider taking anti-inflammatories.
Melanoma is the fifth most frequent cancer in North Carolina, taking more than 300 lives every year – 79 percent of them ages 45 and older.
Recently, Consumer Reports found not all sunscreen products offer the protection they promise.
Ploch says it’s important to research brands before you choose one, then be sure to use it.
She adds many people who experienced severe sun damage when they were younger incorrectly assume there’s nothing they can do now to prevent skin cancer from developing.
“We definitely do get a lot of sun damage when we’re younger, but it’s never too late to adopt safe sun practices and protect ourselves,” she states.
Ploch says the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. are when sun protection is most important. In addition to good sunscreen and covering up in direct sunlight, she says regular skin examinations by a doctor or dermatologist can go a long way to catch melanoma or other skin cancers before they become deadly.