May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month
Dr. Chen shares expert advice on how you can prevent skin cancer and explains why sun safety is so important for you and your family.
Skin cancers are the most common cancers in men and women in the United States. What's more, as a type of skin cancer, melanomas are a leading cause of death from cancers.
What causes skin cancers and what can you do to minimize your risks?
Skin cancer is a lifestyle disease affecting nearly all age groups. In the course of a lifetime, one in five Americans will develop skin cancer; currently 13 million Americans are living with a history of non-melanoma skin cancer (either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma), and nearly 800,000 Americans have been diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
There is good news. Skin cancer is highly preventable. Skin cancer is also highly treatable when detected early.
“Most melanomas and nearly all other types of skin cancers are associated with exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and indoor tanning devices,” says Robert Chen, MD, PhD, of Acacia Dermatology. “Regardless of skin tone everyone should practice sun safety and incorporate sun protection measures into their daily routine.”
"Nearly 800,000 Americans have been diagnosed with melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer."
Here are eight tips from Dr. Chen on how to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM when sun's rays are strongest.
- Do not burn. A person’s risk for melanoma doubles if he or she has had five or more sunburns at any point in life.
- Avoid indoor tanning. UV radiation from tanning devices is now known to cause skin cancers. Those who make just four visits to a tanning salon per year can increase their risk for melanoma by 11%.
- Cover up. Clothing can be your most effective form of sun protection, so make the most of it with densely woven fabrics. Also don't forget to don a broad-brimmed hat and wear UV protective sunglasses.
- Use a broad-spectrum (UVA+UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant sunscreen and reapply throughout the day.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Sunscreens may be used on babies over the age of six months, but they should also be protected by shade and clothing. Children are very sensitive to ultraviolet radiation—just one severe sunburn in childhood doubles the chances of developing melanoma later in life.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month. While self-exams should not replace the important, annual skin exam performed by a dermatologist, they offer the best chance of detecting the early warning signs of skin cancer. If you notice any change in an existing mole or discover a new one that looks suspicious, see a dermatologist immediately.
- See your Board Certified Dermatologist every year for a professional, full skin exam. The American Academy of Dermatology can help you find a dermatologist in your area.
Skin care blog by Robert L. Chen, MD, PhD, for Acacia Dermatology (Copyright © 2017).