Skin cancer is one of the most common types of cancer in the United States and despite all the efforts to educate people on prevention, people are still needlessly dying from this type of cancer. In my post, “Skin Cancer and Mortality” I quoted a statistic from The American Cancer Society which estimated that there would be approximately 11,590 deaths from skin cancer in 2009. Dr. Ellen Marmur wrote on the Dr. Oz Show web site that: “Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime.” Obviously these are not good statistics to hear. The good news is that if skin cancers are caught early, most have an extremely high cure rate.
You don’t have to die from skin cancer.
In our effort to promote prevention we are going to be talking about three ways that you can lower your risk for skin cancer. These are changes you can implement right away and will hopefully make a difference in your overall health and wellbeing.
1. Stop smoking.
You would have to be living under a rock to not have heard about all the health risks of smoking. Most awareness campaigns have focused upon the association between smoking and lung cancer. But did you know that smoking is also linked to an increased risk of a certain type of skin cancer? The American Cancer Society cites a research study which found that smokers were more than three times as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma than nonsmokers. They found that smoking increased this risk independent of age, sex, sun exposure or other factors related to skin cancer. Squamous cell carcinoma can be deadly. Approximately 2,000 deaths each year occur due to non-melanoma skin cancers.
Dr. Robert Gotkin, an expert on the Skin Cancer Foundation web site, provides a very good reason to quit smoking if you are a skin cancer patient. Smoking hinders your body to heal from your skin cancer surgery. This is because smoking causes blood vessels to constrict, causing reduced blood flow. This reduction in blood flow decreases oxygen to the wound and prevents the healing process. He gives an example that if you smoke two cigarettes the nicotine absorbed can reduce your blood flow to the bottom of your feet by as much as 40%. If you smoke you may increase the chance for complications following your surgery.
2. Stop Using Tanning Beds
There still seems to be a lot of controversy over this topic as judged by the various comments we get on our skin sites about discouraging the use of tanning beds. I can tell you that one of the more common questions we get on My Skin Care Connection is when members ask what to do after being burned due to using a tanning bed. It is just not worth it. There are far safer options nowadays to get a tan such as using sunless tanners. You don’t have to fry your skin in a tanning bed or increase your risk to acquire a deadly melanoma.
Need proof of the dangers? Just read the numerous articles on The Skin Cancer Foundation site about the consequences of using tanning beds. Here is some information from their web site. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a working group of the World Health Organization, cited research to show that if you are using tanning beds before the age of thirty, you are upping your risk for melanoma by 75%. If that doesn’t make you take pause, I don’t know what will. Risk of death or a tan from a tanning bed…it doesn’t seem like a difficult choice but some people are still using the tanning beds.
If you wish to read more about this topic of the dangers of tanning beds here is some additional reading from our skin sites:
3. Stop Avoiding Seeing a Dermatologist
Let’s be honest. Most of us are not doing routine full body self examinations to look for skin cancer. In one 2004 survey of 190 college students, for example, less than 6 percent had ever done an entire body skin check for skin cancer. Probably even less of us are asking our doctors to check our skin or moles. And I can bet that an even smaller percentage of us are actually performing routine skin checks AND seeing a dermatologist for an annual skin exam.
My first post for Skin Cancer Connection was “How a Dermatologist can Save Your Life.” I wrote this particular post because I very strongly believe it. It is my opinion that when you go for your annual physical, the doctor might ask if you have any new moles and may do a quick scan but it will not likely be with the thoroughness of what a dermatologist will do. A dermatologist is specially trained to look for skin cancers and they will do a head to toe search. They will go through your scalp and peer between your toes. They will look at the front and the back of you and in places where you cannot readily see for yourself. I do think that an annual full body skin examination conducted by a dermatologist should be on everyone’s list for skin cancer prevention.
One of our missions here on Skin Cancer Connection is to provide information and promote awareness so that we can decrease the odds that anyone will die from this type of cancer. If you have any tips or suggestions related to prevention of skin cancer please do share them here. We always love to hear from you!
Published On: May 03, 2010