Skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the world. According to The Skin Cancer Foundation, two people die of skin cancer in the U.S. every hour, and one in five Americans will develop it at some point in their lives. So how can you best prevent it? Read on for tips on protecting yourself and spotting skin cancer when it’s in the early stages.
It’s probably no surprise to most people that the most common cause of skin cancers of all varieties is excess exposure to sunlight. Indeed, the sun’s UVA and UVB rays not only cause issues with aging skin (like wrinkles and dark spots) but also more serious problems, including types of skin cancer like carcinomas and melanoma.
But sun damage due to excess exposure doesn’t need to be recent in order for you to develop skin cancer. In fact, most sun damage takes place before the age of 18, often with sunburns happening in early youth. Since it only takes one severe sunburn to eventually develop skin cancer, many people are at a higher risk without knowing it.
Skin cancer develops when skin cells abnormally reproduce due to the excess UV light exposure. When cells grow and divide, the skin can produce a cancerous growth. If not caught and treated, skin cancer can then potentially spread to other areas of the body via the lymph system, causing damage and even death.
With all of this said, the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against skin cancer is to take precautionary measures in the sun. Always wear sunscreen with SPF 50 or higher whenever you’re spending time outdoors, even on an overcast day. The sun’s rays can penetrate through the clouds, and this is often when sun damage happens, catching people off guard. On a day to day basis, when spending time indoors, wear a product with an SPF 15 or higher. Many moisturizers and even makeup products now include SPF in them.
When possible, stay in the shade and wear clothing that covers the body. Sun shirts are a popular option, as well as wide-brimmed hats to protect the face. Avoid being in direct sunlight during the hours when the sun is strongest, typically between 12 and 2 pm. Always cover babies and children in SPF 50 sunscreen outdoors, and keep them in the shade or indoors when possible too.
Develop the habit of regularly checking your skin for changes, especially new moles. If you see existing moles that change shape, border, color, or size, make an appointment with your dermatologist right away. These are potential signs of skin cancer, and since early detection is critical, see a doctor if you notice them. All adults should also receive an annual skin cancer screening with a dermatologist. Of course, it goes without saying that using tanning beds or booths drastically increases your risk of developing skin cancer.
Concerned about a new or changing mole? Want to receive a skin cancer screening? If you’re in the Bellevue, Washington area, contact North Pacific Dermatology today for an appointment with one of our board-certified specialists.