Colorado is one of the top five states with the lowest percentage of people diagnosed with cancer, but our state also has the highest per-capita rate of skin cancer.
The plentiful sunshine and high elevations of Colorado mean skin cancer prevention should be a top priority no matter where your Grand Valley adventures lead. To make sure your skin is safe, add these tips to your daily routine.
The sun’s rays are strongest from approximately 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. During those midday hours, try to seek out shade whenever possible. You can also look at your shadow to determine whether it’s wise to stay out of direct sunlight. If the shadow is shorter than you are, retreat to a shadier spot.
If seeking shade isn’t an option, slather on the sunscreen, wear clothing that protects your skin from the sun, and throw on a hat and sunglasses.
“At all costs” might sound dramatic, but it’s good advice nonetheless. Getting a tan can be just as problematic as a sunburn, too. A tanned, glowing complexion is often associated with health, but tans accelerate the effects of aging and increase your risk of skin cancer. Severe sunburns, especially before the age of 18, can also raise your risk of developing melanoma.
Familiarize yourself with all of the lumps and bumps on your skin with monthly skin self-exams, and be sure to assess your skin from scalp-to-toe.
That way, if something grows or changes, you’ll notice it sooner. You can also take photos and notes if you’re having trouble remembering how your skin looks each month.
Schedule an appointment with a dermatologist once a year for a professional skin exam. You should also share anything you’ve noticed during monthly self-checks.
You can also receive free skin cancer screenings through SPOTme®, a program where dermatologists volunteer their time. You can sign up for email alerts if a free screening isn’t yet available near your home.
We saved the most important tip for last, because everyone could use a gentle reminder about sunscreen best practices:
Don’t forget to cover your neck, ears, the top of your head, hands, and the tops of your feet. These spots are small and easy to miss, but you don’t want a foot sunburn to keep you from lacing up your hiking boots and hitting the Western Colorado trails.