May has been designated as Melanoma/ Skin Cancer Detection and Prevention Month by The American Academy of Dermatology. Every year thousands of people needlessly die from skin cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 53,919 people were diagnosed with melanomas of the skin in 2006, and 8,441 people died from it. Maybe these statistics don’t truly convey the human side to this. For each of those numbers is a person who once was a friend, a family member, a neighbor, or a loved one. The message simply is not getting through to some people because the number of deaths caused by skin cancer keeps increasing each year. This is tragic because not only can skin cancer be prevented; it also has an extremely high cure rate if caught early.
So let’s spread the word that there are ways to prevent skin cancer. Here are ten of them:
1. Do a monthly self skin exam Most of us are not doing self skin exams. One of the reasons is that many people simply don’t know how to check their skin for skin cancer. But we are going to try to change this right now. To find out how to perform a self examination of your skin please read my article, “How to Check Your Skin for Skin Cancer.” So no more excuses. Ideally you should probably check your skin for any new lesions or abnormal looking moles once a month.
2. See a dermatologist for an annual skin exam. Again, this is something that many of us are not doing. A 2008 research study published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology showed that only 8% of surveyed U.S. workers had a skin exam in the previous 12 months. Although skin cancer is one of the more common cancers people are not being screened for this. I am also going to add that although you can get your skin checked by your regular general practitioner, a dermatologist may be more skilled at performing a thorough skin exam and indentifying skin cancers. To find out more about what a dermatologist can do for you please read my article, “How a Vist to a Dermatologist Can Save Your Life.”
3. Stay out of the sun during peak hours. The sun is the most strong during certain hours of the day. These hours are between 10am and 4:00 pm. I realize that this is a good portion of the day so if you do go out please follow the next sun prevention guidelines. If you are at the beach you can also try to seek shade from an umbrella or tent.
4. Wear protective clothing. There are a lot of light weight clothes nowadays for covering up from the sun. If you do an web search of “Sun Protective Clothing” you are going to find everything from long sleeved swim shirts to swim tights to sun hats. One company recommended by The Skin Cancer Foundation is Coolibar.
5. Wear sunscreen even on cloudy days. This is probably the number one message that you hear when people about skin cancer prevention. But sunscreen only goes so far to protect you. It doesn’t mean you get to put it on once and stay out in the sun all day and expect to be protected. Sunscreen protection does not last all day.
Here are three important things to know about sunscreen. Most advocates for preventing skin cancer say to use an SPF of 30 or above and they also stress the importance of reapplication. Sunscreen wears off especially if you sweat or are in the water. So it is recommended that you reapply every two hours. You also should not skip the sunscreen on cloudy days as it is still possible to get UV sun damage. The American Academy of Dermatology warns us that: “Even on a cloudy day, up to 80 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays can pass through the clouds.” Here is more information about “The Power of Sunscreen.”
6. Wear a hat. Those wide brimmed or floppy hats can really help to keep the sun off your face and scalp. Many skin cancers develop on the face and neck area. If you wear a baseball hat, don’t forget your sunscreen especially for your ears and neck.
7. Stop smoking. In a recent post I discussed “Three Ways to Prevent Skin Cancer” and quitting smoking is one of them. The American Cancer Society cites research which shows that: “…smokers are more than three times as likely to develop squamous cell carcinoma of the skin than are nonsmokers.” There are many reasons to stop smoking and now prevention of skin cancer is one of them.
8. Don’t Use tanning beds. We have said this before and we will say it again. The use of tanning beds drastically increases your risk for acquiring the most deadly form of skin cancer, melanoma. It just is not worth it. The Skin Cancer Foundation cites research which says that f you are using tanning beds before the age of thirty, you are upping your risk for melanoma by 75%. If that statistic doesn’t make you pause, I don’t know what will. Please also read, “The Dangers of Tanning Beds” for more information on this topic.
9. Eat a healthy diet including foods which have antioxidants. There is some research to show that eating a healthy diet including certain foods can decrease your risk for skin cancer. To read more about which foods can boost your immune system and possibly protect you from developing skin cancer please read my article, “Four Foods Which May Protect Against Skin Cancer.”
10. Be aware of medications you are taking which can cause photosensitivity to the sun. Photosensitivity puts one at more risk for skin cancer. The Skin Care Foundation provides a list of medications which can cause you to be more sensitive to the sun. Some of these medications or supplements may include Tetracyclines, St. John’s Wort, and even Ibuprofen.
We have given you a lot of ideas of how you can prevent skin cancer but I am sure there are more. If you have any skin cancer prevention tips please do share them here. For more information and resources about skin cancer please visit Health Central’s Skin Cancer Connection. We are here for you!
Published On: May 03, 2010