Resolutions, often made at the beginning of the year but just as effective any time, are promises to yourself – to eat better, quit smoking, or be more diligent about your health. Whether you have skin cancer or want to reduce your risk of developing it, there are many ways to keep your skin healthy. But trying to make too many changes at once can be overwhelming and increase the chances of failure. Instead, try picking one item on the list below and sticking with it throughout the next year to help minimize your chances of developing skin cancer.
Have an annual skin exam completed by your dermatologist
Skin cancer is highly treatable with a survival rate of 99 percent when detected and treated early, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. When not detected until it reaches an advanced stage, the survival rate drops to 15 percent. An annual exam by a dermatologist greatly increases your chances of having skin cancer detected in the early stages. It only takes about one hour a year, so this resolution shouldn’t prevent you from taking on a second one.
Perform self-exams monthly
This resolution is in addition to the annual exam by your dermatologist. It involves using a full length mirror and checking for any changes in existing moles and noting any new spots, lesions, or moles and bringing them to the attention of your dermatologist. A number of apps can help you perform self-skin-exams.
Cleanse your face every night before bed
While facial cleansing hasn’t been linked to skin cancer, it is good practice. Zoe Draelos, professor of Dermatology at Duke University School of Medicine, indicates that leaving makeup on can trap skin-damaging free radicals on your skin. Free radicals are oxygen molecules that produce inflammation and damage skin function and can cause changes in your genes, which can lead to skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Tanning has been linked to skin cancer. When your skin darkens or burns from being outside in the sun or from a tanning bed, it’s showing damage. And that damage can lead to skin cancer, wrinkles, and premature aging. To be safe, stay out of the direct sun between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., when UV rays are strongest, and wear protective clothing, such as wide brimmed hats, sunglasses, and long-sleeves, if you do need to be out in the sunlight.
Eat more fruits and vegetables
Certain foods contain high levels of antioxidants, which may help in reducing the risk of developing cancer, including skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Try replacing one processed food each day with a healthy alternative.
- Foods high in beta carotene including carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, and cantaloupe.
- Foods high in lycopene including tomatoes, apricots, and papaya.
- Foods high in omega 3 including walnuts and flaxseed.
- Food high in vitamin C including lemons, limes, strawberries, and raspberries.
- Foods high in vitamin E including almonds, sunflowers, spinach, and soybeans
- Foods high in zinc including chickpeas, lentils, and black beans.
If you smoke, this resolution has probably been on your list in the past. But there is no time like the present to quit. Not only does it cause premature aging of the skin and raise your chances of developing heart disease and lung cancer, it also increases your risk of developing squamous cell carcinoma, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. There are many programs and medications available to help you quit smoking. Check with your health insurance company to find out what is covered under your plan.
Use sunscreen everyday
No list of resolutions for healthy skin would be complete without mention of the importance of sunscreen. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends a broad spectrum sunscreen with at least an SPF of 30. You should apply sunscreen every day, no matter what the weather, before going outdoors and reapply every two hours throughout the day.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.