More than likely, your summer plans consist of at least a little time spent outside soaking up some sun and Vitamin D. The only problem is, those rays can also cause some real damage — like premature aging and even skin cancer.
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In fact, according to a recent Blue Cross Blue Shield Health of America External Site report, skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. More than 9 million people who have health insurance (not provided by the government) had skin cancer in 2016, resulting in annual treatment costs of $5.3 billion.
The Health of America report also uncovered that a type of deadly skin cancer is on the rise. Melanoma is relatively rare — only making up about 2.8 percent of all skin cancers. However, diagnosis rates are up 7 percent from 2014 to 2016. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation External Site, one of the best ways to protect yourself from melanoma is to avoid tanning beds. People who use a tanning bed before age 35 increase their risk for melanoma by 75 percent.
So, how do you enjoy the outdoors but protect yourself at the same time? Follow these simple steps.
Sun safety basics
- Use sunscreen and lip balm with a broad spectrum SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply every two hours (or more frequently when swimming or sweating).
- Limit time spent in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- When in the sun, cover up with a wide-brimmed hat and loose, light clothing. Protect your eyes with sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UV rays.
- Sunscreen isn't just for the heat of the summer. Be sure to lather-up year round.
Check your spots and spot cancer early
Use the "ABCDE" method and check your skin and moles monthly. If you notice any of the following features, contact your personal doctor.
Mismatched sides — where one side of the mole is larger than the other
Irregular, or jagged edges
Inconsistent pigment or discoloration
Larger than about ¼ inch
Changes in size, shape or color
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Whether you're traveling or just have general health-related questions this spring and summer, a health care professional with BeWell 24/7 is here for you around-the-clock. You can also be transferred directly to a Wellmark Blue Cross and Blue Shield customer service associate to answer your coverage questions. Of course, in the case of an emergency, call 911.