Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, with one in five Americans developing it over the course of their lives. It's also one of the most preventable types of cancers. Since May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month and Melanoma Monday is May 7, Mount Sinai experts are sharing tips on prevention and insight on the new FDA labeling requirements on sunscreen.
Patients are also available to discuss their experience with melanoma.
Tips for Skin Cancer Prevention
●Get an annual checkup: Annual dermatology visits to monitor changes in you and your child's skin appearance are just as important as annual physicals and regular trips to the dentist. Nearly 50 percent of UV exposure occurs between the ages of 19 - 40. The skin is an amazing diagnostic tool that can give clues to what's going on inside the body.
●Wear sunblock every day: Sunblock is not just for the summer. You should apply it thoroughly - to your body, eyes, lips, ears and feet - every day, year-round. Ask your dermatologist to recommend a sunscreen for infants, or for sensitive areas like your eyelids.
●Never intentionally sunbathe: You might not immediately realize the damage you're doing by sunbathing, because takes 10-20 years for skin damage to catch up with you, but sun dissolves the collagen and elastin in your skin that keeps your skin good looking.
●Watch your brown spots and freckles: Do self-skin checks every month. If you have a lot of brown spots, talk to your dermatologist about total body photography so your doctor can keep a photographic record of your moles and watch closely for any change.
●Follow the ABCDEs: Tell your dermatologist if your moles have:
•Asymmetry, where one half of the mole is unlike the other half;
•Borders that are irregular, ragged, notched or poorly defined;
•Color that varies from one area to another, with shades of tan and brown, black, sometimes white, pink, red or blue;
•Diameters that are the size of a pencil eraser or larger;
•Elevation, when a mole or skin lesion is raised and/or has an uneven surface.
Understanding New Sunscreen Labels
As of June 18, 2012, sunscreen manufacturers will be required by the FDA to make the following label changes on over-the-counter sunscreen products:
•The new packages should say they provide "broad-spectrum protection." This means that the product will provide UVA coverage in addition to UVB coverage measured by the given SPF value. Broad-spectrum sunscreens, by the new definition, are products that block light beyond a critical wavelength of 370 nm.
•Look for SPF 30 or higher. This still means that it takes 30 minutes of sun exposure to get the same amount of UV light penetration as you would get with one minutes of unprotected skin. Sunscreens with an SPF 15 or lower must have the following wording on their packaging, "Spending time in the sun increases your risk of skin cancer and early skin aging. This product has been shown only to prevent sunburn, not skin cancer or early skin aging."
•Sunscreens can no longer be labeled as "waterproof," as no product remains fully on the skin in the presence of water or sweat. Products can be labeled as "water resistant" if they pass a standard test of water exposure (either 40 or 80 minutes) followed by UV testing.