Did you know that skin cancer is highly preventable? Because May is National Skin Cancer Awareness Month, we want to highlight the fact that our lifestyle choices contribute greatly to our chances of getting skin cancer. The most preventable risk factor for all skin cancers is sun exposure.
According to Tamar Zapolanski, M.D., FAAD, Dermatologist, Valley Medical Group - Park Ridge, "Repeated overexposure to the sun can lead to premature aging and skin cancers called basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and malignant melanoma, which is the deadliest form of skin cancer." Current estimates are that one in five Americans will develop skin cancer, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD).
The most effective way to reduce your risk of skin cancer, regardless of your skin type or whether or not you tan easily, is to protect your skin daily with a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, which protects against the sun's harmful ultraviolet radiation. Sunscreen should be applied at least 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapplied every two hours, even on cloudy days, and after swimming or sweating.
"Sunscreen protects against harmful radiation from the sun by absorbing, reflecting or scattering the sun's rays on the skin," explains Dr. Zapolanski. They are available in many forms including creams, lotions, gels, ointments, wax sticks, sprays or in cosmetic products like make-up and lipstick.
The best thing you can do for your skin is to make sunscreen a part of your daily routine all year round, even on cloudy days when 80 percent of the sun's rays can still penetrate the clouds. Sunscreen can be applied under make up.
Below are some additional tips to help you decrease your risk for developing skin cancer:• Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible.
- Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Protect children from sun exposure by having them play in the shade, wear protective clothing and apply sunscreen.
- Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand, as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
- Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements.
- Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look like you've been in the sun, consider using a sunless self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
- Check your birthday suit on your birthday. Any time you notice anything changing, growing or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.
Valley's Blumenthal Cancer Center has enhanced its early detection services with the addition of MoleSafe, the world's most advanced melanoma detection and surveillance program. MoleSafe's program incorporates a suite of advanced melanoma detection and diagnostic tools and technology, including total body photography, digital dermoscopy, and digital serial monitoring.