As this year comes to a close and a new one begins, it is time for reflection and goal setting. If you have had any type of skin cancer or even a skin cancer scare, you may have some anxiety over the New Year. You may worry that your skin cancer will come back and how you can prevent this from happening. This worry is not unfounded as the research shows that once you have had any type of skin cancer, the chance of recurrence is always there. Some skin cancer experts say that you are 40 percent more likely to develop a new skin lesion if you have had a previous diagnosis of skin cancer as compared to those who have never had skin cancer.
Those having pre-cancerous lesions such as actinic keratosis or atypical moles may also be at a greater risk for developing skin cancer in the future. So it is imperative that you take some precautions to prevent the development and recurrence of skin cancer. And we are here to help.
Here are five New Year’s goals for anyone who has a history of being diagnosed with either skin cancer or pre-cancerous moles and lesions:
1. Get thee to a dermatologist.
If you have been diagnosed with any type of skin cancer or have had moles or lesions removed, your doctor will have undoubtedly set up a schedule for you to come in to have your skin checked on a regular basis. Depending upon the severity of your skin cancer, your doctor may set up appointments for you to be seen every several months to a minimum of once a year. It may seem like an inconvenience to go but don’t brush off these appointments as they could save your life.
It is also important that you get a regular skin exam by a dermatologist and not just your regular practitioner. A dermatologist has been trained specifically to identify the first signs of skin cancer whereas your regular doctor may miss these early signs. In an article entitled, "Three Point Check List of Dermoscopy. A new screening method for early detection of melanoma" the author suggests that GP's "get it right" only 60% of the time, meaning that they sometimes have difficulty with identifying pre-cancerous or cancerous skin growths and moles.
2. Make it a habit to use sunscreen regardless of the weather.
The best way to make sure that you use sunscreen is to make a daily habit just like brushing your teeth. Make sure to cover any exposed skin any time you venture outside regardless if it is a summer day or an overcast wintry day. In my previous post about winter skin cancer prevention tips, I cite statistics from The Skin Cancer Foundation which tell us that between 50 and 80 percent of UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds. Remember to re-apply your sunscreen every two hours as it will wear off. Most skin care experts recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more and particularly if you are at high risk for developing skin cancer.
3. Check your skin regularly for suspicious moles or lesions.
If you have a history of any type of skin cancer or pre-cancerous lesions, you are going to want to be vigilant about checking your skin for any new growths or changes to your skin. If you don’t know how to perform a self skin exam, not to fear, we have a how-to guide for checking your skin, right here on SkinCancerConnection. If you have had a prior mole or lesion removed, you will want to look for any signs of recurrence on the area of skin where your lesion was removed. And you will also want to check the rest of your body as well because recurrence does not always appear in the same place.
Some people have a loved one help them to look at hard to see places on the body for new lesions. Another thing you can do is to take photos of any moles or skin areas of concern so that your doctor can assess any changes over time. You will want to ask your doctor about how often you should check your skin at home.
4. Don’t worry.
This is easier said than done I know. It can be very frightening to receive a diagnosis of skin cancer. Even when a tumor is safely removed, there is no guarantee that the skin cancer will not come back. The word cancer can invoke anxiety and fear in most of us. But it is important not to let such anxiety consume you to the point of interfering with your day to day functioning.
The important thing to remember is that most skin cancers are easily treatable in the early stages, even melanoma. The best thing you can do to ease your anxiety is to use preventive strategies for protecting your skin and know the signs of early skin cancer. If you have questions or concerns about your risks of developing skin cancer, please do discuss these worries with your doctor. Your doctor is the best person to talk to about your medical history and treatment.
5. Spread the word about awareness and prevention of skin cancer.
Skin cancer can have a genetic connection. For example, the National Cancer Institute cites research to show that a family history of squamous cell cancer may increase the risk of SCC in first-degree relative. In addition, The American Society of Clinical Oncology states that the risk of developing melanoma is two to three times greater than the average risk if you have a first-degree relative with melanoma. This risk becomes higher if you have multiple family members diagnosed with melanoma who live in different geographic locations.
So if you have been diagnosed with skin cancer, it may be wise to educate your family members about skin cancer detection and prevention. It is a good idea to spread the word about skin cancer awareness in general to friends, family, and loved ones. One way to achieve this goal is to send your friends and loved ones here to SkinCancerConnection to learn about skin cancer and how to prevent it. We would be more than happy to answer any questions you or your significant others may have about this topic.
On behalf of everyone from Health Central, we want to wish all of our members a very happy holiday and a joyous New Year. Thank you for being a part of this community. We couldn’t do it without you.
Published On: December 18, 2010