Summer is here, and people are spending more time than ever outdoors – gardening, walking, or just enjoying the sunshine.  Sun safety is always in season, and it’s important to protect your skin from sun damage throughout the year, no matter the weather.

Exposure to the sun can cause sunburn, aging skin, eye damage, and skin cancer, which is the most common of all cancers.

If you’ve ever noticed a dark spot on your skin, you may have wondered if it is simply a sign of aging or something more serious. Many older adults have sensitive skin so it is important to guard against damage that can lead to skin cancer, and to ensure that any new spots are nothing more than the normal signs of aging.

An age spot is a brown lesion on the skin. This type of spot may be bothersome, but it is harmless. Age spots form due to a combination of age and exposure to the sun. They are often found on the back of the hands, face, or arms. These spots tend to have smooth borders and are uniform in color and are painless. Age spots can also group together which makes them more noticeable.

Melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. It most frequently presents as a pigmented lesion similar to an age spot but with significant differences. A change in your skin could be a skin cancer. This could be a sore that does not heal, a new spot, or a change in an existing mole. For melanoma remember the ABCDE’s.  You should seek medical attention if the lesion is:

A  Asymmetric

B  Border is irregular

Color is varied (red, black, brown or even flesh colored)

D  Diameter is greater than a pea or

E  Spot is evolving

Keep in mind, melanoma is easily curable if found in its early stages.

Spending time in the sun not only increases early skin aging, but your risk of developing all types of skin cancer, including melanoma. People of all skin colors are at risk. It’s never too late to prevent future damage. The easiest way to protect yourself is to follow a few sun safety tips:

  • Limit your time in the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most intense.
  • Wear clothing to cover skin exposed to the sun — such as long-sleeve shirts, pants, sunglasses, and broad-brim hats.
  • Use broad spectrum sunscreens with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) value of 15 or higher regularly, and use as directed.

While age spots may simply be something we have to live with as we age, melanoma is a different matter altogether. By following a few safety tips, you can help prevent skin cancer from occurring in the first place. With a diligent eye, you can ensure melanoma is caught and treated quickly.