According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer by age 70 – and it can become deadly without treatment. Fortunately, skin cancer is incredibly easy to prevent and treat (when detected early on). For this reason, it’s essential to know how to take care of your skin and when to consult a board-certified dermatologist. Here are 4 tips for preventing skin cancer and keeping yourself healthy for the long term.
Skin cancer is caused by UV rays from the sun or tanning beds. Most sun exposure actually occurs before the age of 18, and it can take a lifetime for skin cancer to develop. However, it’s never too late to begin protecting your skin from UV exposure with the following steps:
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen (SPF 30+) daily and apply it at least 15 minutes before going outside
- Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours, especially if you’re swimming
- Wear UV-protective clothing like long sleeves, pants, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses
- Wear SPF lip balm
- Avoid sunlight as much as possible between 10am and 3pm, whether going inside or seeking shade
Remember that UV rays can still penetrate cloud cover, fog, snow, and rain so never assume you don’t need sunscreen when you’re spending long amounts of time outside. Make sure to wear it all year round!
Performing skin self-checks regularly is the best way to keep track of any spots on your skin that may become problematic. Once per month, take a hand mirror and check every area on your body in a brightly lit room. Make sure to examine any moles, lesions, or spots for changes or abnormalities. Don’t forget to check areas like your scalp, genitals, behind your ears, between your toes, or underneath your fingernails. Enlist a close friend or family member for hard-to-see areas. If you notice anything suspicious from month to month, take a clear picture and consult a board-certified dermatologist.
Melanoma is the deadliest form of skin cancer, and there are a few things that can help you detect it when you perform a skin check:
- A (Asymmetry): Regular moles are typically symmetrical whereas melanomas have an asymmetrical border or coloration
- B (Border): Melanomas sometimes have a ragged or unclear border versus a regular mole, where the pigmentation is clearly defined against the rest of the skin
- C (Color): Problematic spots might have coloration that’s different from a normal mole, like red, blue, or white – they may even have more than one coloration
- D (Diameter): Some healthy moles can be large in diameter, but melanomas are typically bigger than the size of a pencil eraser (about 6mm)
- E (Evolution): The biggest giveaway of a melanoma is that it changes over time with one of the above factors
Seeing your dermatologist once per year for a professional skin check can be one of the most effective ways to catch skin cancer early on. Your dermatologist can examine you from head to toe and take a biopsy of any concerning areas. If, when you perform your at-home examination, you find anything that concerns you, it’s always best to consult your dermatologist even if it might not be skin cancer.
At Sunrise Dermatology, our team is dedicated to helping you keep your skin healthy and cancer-free. To schedule an appointment for a professional skin check, contact our Show Low, Safford, and Mesa offices by calling or filling out our online form.