7 Helpful advice on how Skin Cancer can be Prevented
Nonmelanoma skin cancers can be split into two subcategories – basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma – depending on where in the skin they occur. These both tend to be relatively low-risk cancers, especially when treated appropriately. Basal cell skin cancers are the most common types of cancer, period, accounting for roughly 80 percent of all skin cancers. Squamous cell carcinomas, accounting for close to 20 percent of cancerous skin lesions diagnosed tend to be somewhat more aggressive than basal cell carcinomas but also usually respond well to excision.
Melanoma skin cancers are rarer, but melanoma can be a more aggressive form of skin cancer. The majority of melanomas are in the early phase and are easily treated with an excision. However, if a melanoma is caught in a later stage or is aggressively growing, then you’re dealing with potentially higher rates of recurrence and spreading elsewhere.
Regardless of which type of skin cancer you develop, when skin cancers are caught early, they are often curable. It’s important to be aware of your skin so you can protect it. Here are seven ways you can help prevent skin cancer:
1. Get an annual checkup.
Annual visits to your dermatologist are a good way to keep track of skin changes. These changes are where skin cancer shows up, so they need to be checked out when they turn up. Often what may look like a nonhealing pimple or a normal mole to a novice may in fact be skin cancer. The key is that skin cancer can look very harmless if you do not know what to look for.
2. Wear sunblock every day and reapply.
Just because it’s cloudy, doesn’t mean you should ditch the sunscreen – UV radiation can still filter through the cloud cover and cause damage to your skin. If exercising or in the water, sunscreen should be reapplied every 20 minutes. Reapplication is particularly important when UV index is the highest, which is usually between 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dermatologists recommend a broad spectrum water-resistant sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection and an SPF of at least 30.
3. Skip the sunbathing session.
You’ve applied sunscreen, but are you still directly exposing your skin to the sun? Seeking that sun-kissed complexion can have dangerous consequences. Sunbathing is bad because ultraviolet rays are harmful to the DNA of the cells in the skin. When those cells get damaged it leads to signs of aging and then skin cancer. At the beach, reapply a water-resistant broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 every two to three hours, and much more often if you’re in the water or sweating a lot. Seek shade as much as possible. Often people apply sunscreen, but don’t actually stay out of the sun. Sitting under an umbrella and wearing a hat are critical.
4. Avoid tanning beds.
The radiation from indoor tanning beds is sometimes stronger than radiation from the sun. This can cause skin cell mutations. Once cells are mutated, they continue to grow into tumors that are cancerous. Wrinkles are caused by damaging the epidermis – the outer layer of the skin – and the dermis – the middle layer of the skin. The skin becomes thin, wrinkled and can look sullen from years of sun exposure.
5. Wear protective clothing.
Although it’s tempting to lose the clothing, keep those shirts on. Better yet, seek protective clothing instead of traditional cotton fibers. It is recommended to seek sun protective clothing with an Ultraviolet Protection Factor – or UPF rating. A UPF 50 rating means that one in 50 of the sun’s rays reaches the skin. UPF is partly dependent on the weave of the fabric (a tighter weave gives more protection), the weight and density of the fabric, and the color. Choosing a garment with a UPF label often means that the garment is fashionable as well as functional, with light breathable fabric. You can often find UPF labels on long-sleeved shirts, pants and wide-brimmed hats.
Covering up with such clothing can help you avoid skin cancer but also painful sunburns. Sun protection is an important part of skin cancer prevention because it absolutely prevents or reduces the damage that UV radiation can inflict on skin cells.
And don’t forget your sunglasses – this may help reduce your chances of developing ocular melanoma, a dangerous form of eye cancer. One thing we do know is that these cancers are more common among fair-skinned and blue-eyed individuals, the Ocular Melanoma Foundation reports. The American Cancer Society recommends wearing “wrap-around sunglasses with 99 percent to 100 percent UVA and UVB absorption,” as these provide the best protection for the eyes and the surrounding skin. This might help reduce the risk of developing cancer of the skin around the eyes.
6. Check yourself.
If you have a history of extensive sun exposure, lighter skin pigmentation and a family or personal history of skin cancer, you should check your skin once per month. And be sure to check all of your skin – even those hard-to-see spots and areas that don’t generally see the sun, as skin cancers can still develop there. If you are in a lower risk category, then (checking) every three months or so is fine. If you notice any bleeding, burning, itching or a nonhealing sore, you should see a dermatologist.
7. Follow the ABCDEs.
Do you know your ABCDEs? The American Academy of Dermatology says you should tell your doctor if your moles have the following symptoms of melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer:
- Asymmetry – Half of the mole is different from the other half.
- Borders – Are any moles irregular, scalloped or poorly defined?
- Color – Check for varying colors, such as shades of tan and brown, black. Sometimes moles turn white, red or blue.
- Diameters – Are they the size of a pencil eraser or larger?
- Evolving – Has the mole or skin lesion changed in size, shape or color?
What Will Happen at the Dermatologist’s Office?
During the checkup, a dermatologist will examine your skin, including the scalp and areas of the skin that don’t regularly see the sun. If a total body skin exam is performed, the patient will be asked to undress so that the entire surface of the skin can be evaluated by the doctor. No blood work is performed at a skin cancer screening. The dermatologist will also look at any specific lesions you’re worried about. If necessary, he or she will perform a biopsy to determine if it is cancerous.