Have you been spending more time outdoors to enjoy the warmer weather? If your answer is yes, have you also been taking steps to protect your skin from the sun? If not, now is the time to start adding a few important steps to your morning routine to help prevent skin cancer.
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the U.S. and almost five million people receive treatment annually for basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas, the most common types of skin cancer. Through preventative measures and early detection, skin cancer is also the easiest to cure.
Susceptibility and Signs of Skin Cancer
Skin cancer has the ability to affect anyone. However, there are a few additional risk factors that can make you more susceptible to receiving a diagnosis:
- Fair Complexion – If you have light skin, blue or green eyes, and blonde or red hair, you have a higher risk of developing melanoma. Melanoma is the most lethal of the three major types of skin cancers.
- Family History – Your risk of developing skin cancer is two to three times higher than average if an immediate family member has ever received a diagnosis.
- History of Sunburns or Indoor Tanning – Ultraviolet (UV) rays contribute to the development of skin cancer. The number one source of UV rays is the sun and the second is indoor tanning beds. Your risk of skin cancer has an increased range of 55 to 75% through this extra exposure to UV rays.
- Moles and Freckles – More moles and freckles on your body mean more chances that they can be atypical. These unusual moles could be cancerous.
To evaluate your moles, it is recommended to follow your ABCDEs for each of them on the basis of:
- Asymmetry (one half of the mole doesn’t match the other)
- Border irregularity
- Color that is not uniform and often dark
- Diameter greater than 6 mm (about the size of a pencil eraser)
- Evolving in size, shape, or color
You should assess your moles often, and if you’re not sure about a particular mole, show it to your doctor. It is also advised to see a dermatologist for a full body skin exam at least once a year for an even greater layer of early detection.
Protection is Important
Adding a few steps to your morning routine is the easiest way to prevent skin cancer.
The number one suggestion is to apply sunscreen. Use a sunscreen that is resistant to water and has an SPF (sun protection factor) of at least 30. Apply approximately two tablespoons to any exposed skin on a daily basis and give it time to soak in. If you are around water or sweating, reapply sunscreen every few hours.
If you know you are going to be in the sun for a while, another option is to add a wide-brimmed hat and long-sleeved shirt to your outfit to help cover up. Some of the most forgotten spots for sunscreen application (tops of your ears and scalp, nose, lips, and back of the neck) can be protected with a layer of clothing.
Tanning beds and peak sun hours (10 a.m. to 2 p.m.) should also be avoided if to further your prevention of skin cancer. If you really desire a sun-kissed glow, opt for a spray tan.
Skin cancer has a 99% survival rate if caught and treated early. Knowing your personal risk, the signs of skin cancer, and how to avoid it from forming in the first place is key. Before you know it, protecting your skin will become a habit and you’ll be golden for skin cancer prevention. If you are ever concerned about a particular mole or freckle, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Sabrina Mikita, MD, is with UPMC Dermatology and sees patients at UPMC Williamsport Divine Providence Campus, 1205 Grampian Blvd., Suite 1A, Williamsport. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Mikita, call 570-326-8060. For more information, visit UPMC.com.