According to the National Cancer Institute (1), skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. The most common forms of this cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. While much less common than the others, melanoma is the most invasive and deadliest of the three.
The good news is, much can be done to prevent skin cancers and, if detected early, melanoma is highly treatable.
Cancer prevention is action taken to lower an individual’s chance of getting cancer.
While many risk factors related to skin cancer, such as family history, genetics, age, and race are not controllable, others can be limited or controlled by our actions. (2)
Avoid Damaging Ultraviolet Rays (3)
Every time you get a tan, it’s an indicator your skin is being damaged by ultraviolet light. As this damage builds over time, your skin ages more rapidly and your risk for skin cancer, including melanoma, increases. (4)
- Seek shade when the sun’s damaging rays are strongest (10AM – 2PM). If your shadow is shorter than you are, find the shade.
- Wear lightweight protective clothing, a sun hat and sunglasses.
- Generously apply SPF 30 or higher sunscreen when outdoors in the sun.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
- Don’t forget hands, feet, and top of head when applying sunscreen.
- Use extra caution where the sun’s rays are reflected off of sand, water, or snow.
- Do not use tanning beds. The ultraviolet light from these is dangerous to the skin.
- If you want an early tan, consider using a self-tanning product.
Melanoma Early Detection
Skin cancers are highly curable when caught early. In the earliest stages, you are the one with the best chance to detect changes in your skin that could warrant further investigation. (5)
We recommend you examine your skin monthly to look for any suspicious spots, itching, or unexpected bleeding.
If you notice anything new, changing, growing, or unusual, get it checked out immediately by a dermatologist.
Here are some things to look for:
- A birthmark, mole, or brown spot that increases in size, thickness, texture, or color.
- A mole, birthmark or brown spot that is bigger than a pencil eraser.
- A spot or sore that continues to itch, hurt, scab, bleed, or crust over.
- An open sore that is slow to heal.
- A growth that increases in size and appears transparent, pearly, black, brown, tan, or multi-colored.
If you detect one of these signs or are in any other way concerned you may have a change in your skin that could be cancerous, contact your dermatologist and schedule an appointment. When it comes to Melanoma prevention and detection, “Better safe than sorry”, is the best advice.
- The National Cancer Institute: https://www.cancer.gov/types/skin
- American Academy of Dermatology: https://www.aad.org/public/diseases/skin-cancer/prevent/how
- Skin Cancer Foundation: https://www.skincancer.org/risk-factors/uv-radiation/
- The Big See: https://thebigsee.org/