May is Melanoma and skin cancer awareness month. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in America, and cases are on the rise. So, this month I want to share with you some strategies that you can use to prevent skin cancer. I’ll also share what to look out for when you’re evaluating changes to your skin.
Who’s Risk for Skin Cancer?
The short answer is, everyone. That said, there are certain people and factors that increase your risk of developing skin cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention those include:
- A lighter natural skin color.
- Family history of skin cancer.
- A personal history of skin cancer.
- Exposure to the sun through work and play.
- A history of sunburns, especially early in life.
- A history of indoor tanning.
- Skin that burns, freckles, reddens easily, or becomes painful in the sun.
- Blue or green eyes.
- Blond or red hair.
- Certain types and a large number of moles.
Ways to Improve You Chances of Preventing Skin Care
As you can see, there are many factors that can increase your risk of developing skin cancer. I’d love to tell you I have a solution in a bottle to help you prevent skin cancer, but I’d be lying. The recommendations I map out below will by no means erase your risk of skin cancer especially if it runs in your family or you have already had it, but they can certainly help increase your chances of preventing it!
1.Sunscreen, Sunscreen, Sunscreen – The benefits to wearing sunscreen are endless. A high quality sunscreen with SPF of 30 or more is your best bet. Aside from protecting your skin from harmful rays, it can also help minimize your chances of getting sun damage, dark spots, fine lines and wrinkles. Using sunscreen is proven to help prevent skin cancer…but you must use it properly to get the full benefits…see item #2!
2. Reapply your sunscreen often – It’s not enough to put on your sunscreen once and forget about it, especially if you’re in the sun for prolonged periods of time. You need to reapply your sunscreen every two hours to ensure it does its job and you don’t get an unexpected sunburn.
3. Wear protective clothing – In addition to sunscreen, try to cover exposed skin as much as you can to avoid getting burned. This includes while you’re swimming! It’s also a good idea to wear a wide brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect your face whenever possible.
4. Just say no to indoor tanning – Indoor tanning has been said to increase your risk of developing skin cancer AND it can cause premature aging of your skin. Two big no-no’s in my world! While I know it’s tempting because many of us love the glow we have with a tan, it’s not worth the risk. Instead, find a sunless tanning product to do the job.
5. Do your self-exams – Just like you would for breast cancer, I recommend doing a self-exam to keep an eye out for skin cancer. If you see something suspicious, contact a dermatologist right away. When skin cancer is discovered early, it is most treatable.
What to Look for During Your Skin Cancer Self-Exam
In general the graphic above offers a few things to keep an eye out for when you’re evaluating your skin. Again, if you notice something changing, see a dermatologist as soon as possible.