Skin cancer is the most common, and one of the most preventable type of cancer diagnosed in the United States. Every year there are more new cases of skin cancer reported than colon, lung, prostate and breast combined. While melanoma is the most deadly type of skin cancer, it is far less common than Basal Cell and Squamous Cell Carcinomas (BCC/SCC). The risk of melanoma is increased in people who have a history of multiple blistering sunburns. On the other hand, BCCS’s and SCC’s usually occur at sites of chronic sun damage like the face, scalp and arms, but may occur at any body site. The good news is that skin cancers found and removed early are almost always curable.
If skin cancer runs in your family or you feel like you’re at risk of developing it, here are a few simple steps to help prevent, or at least detect and treat your skin cancer early.
- Wear sunscreen on all sun exposed areas every day, regardless of whether it is winter, summer, sunny, overcast, raining or snowing. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends using a broad spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVA and UVB rays) that is water resistant and at least SPF 30 and reapplying every 2 hours when out in the sun.
- Avoid tanning, laying out in the sun, or sunbed use. While tanning may give your skin a golden glow, the long term effects and increased risk of skin cancer, as well as wrinking and ageing of the skin may not be worth it. A good alterntive is to use a self-tanning product, along with sunscreen.
- Self skin examinations: The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that we all perform a self head to toe skin examination every month. That way, we can find any changing or new skin lesions that may be concerning.
- If you, or any of you family members have had skin cancer, then you should see a Board-Certified Dermatologist, at least once a year for a full body skin examination. Your dermatologist is the expert in all things skin, and can tell the difference between harmless moles, sunspots and age-spots, and more worrisome precancerous skin lesions and skin cancers.