This is the second article in a two-part series focusing on skin cancer prevention and the impacts of the sun on your skin.
At Duke City Health, we’re here to help you when you’re sick, and we love to talk prevention so that you stay healthy (and don’t get sick!) – that includes protecting your skin from harmful sun damage.
If you read our last post, you know there is no such thing as a better tan, but there are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting skin cancer.
How Can I Lower My Skin Cancer Risk?
There are many simple, free or inexpensive ways to lower your risk of skin cancer:
- Try to stay out of the sun at peak hours when UV rays are strongest (usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.)
- Wear long sleeves, long pants, shoes, a hat and sunglasses to cover as much skin as possible
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen of at least SPF 30. A broad-spectrum sunscreen protects you from UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget your lips, ears, and feet. Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you go out and reapply it every two hours, especially if you are swimming or sweating a lot.
- Use cosmetics and skincare products with SPF protection as part of your daily routine.
- Do a home check every month and have a doctor do a check every year.
- If you notice any of the signs of skin cancer we listed in our previous post, see your doctor right away.
Do a home check every month, just like you do for breast or testicular cancer. Work from your head to your toes, making sure to check the hard-to-reach areas between your fingers and toes, the bottom of your feet, the back of your knees, and your scalp and groin.
If you find a new mole, check with your doctor right away. Home checks are especially important when your hormones are changing, (during adolescence, pregnancy, menopause) or if you are undergoing radiation treatment.
Are Tanning Beds Safer?
In fact, tanning beds are more dangerous. The UV rays produced in tanning beds are often stronger than those produced by the sun. Indoor tanning increases your risk of developing melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer.
Half of people who use indoor tanning start before they are 21 and a third start before they are 18. These people have a 59 percent increased risk for melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer. Even one indoor tanning session increases your risk of skin cancer by 20 percent. The more you use indoor tanning, the greater your risk.
The American Academy of Dermatology recommends never using indoor tanning. If you or your children have used tanning beds, talk to your doctor about how to manage your increased risk of skin cancer.
Don’t Forget About Your Eyes
UV rays can also cause serious eye damage like cataracts, macular degeneration, and even sunburns on your cornea, all of which can lead to blindness. Being in the water or snow increases the damage the sun can do.
It’s important to wear sunglasses with UV protection when you’re driving or enjoying the outdoors.
What If I Find Something?
Like all illnesses, early diagnosis and treatment increases your survival rate. Caught early, skin cancer is very treatable and has a good survival rate. Late stage skin cancer may be more difficult, invasive, painful and costly to treat. Don’t let fear keep you away from seeking help.
Your doctor may take a tissue sample. If it’s cancerous, the affected area of skin, plus an extra ring, around it will be removed. This is usually an outpatient procedure.
Depending on the type, stage and area affected, you may need follow-up treatment. And, once you’ve had skin cancer, you’re at risk for recurrence and need to be checked at least once a year by your doctor.
Your health is important to us at Duke City Health. We want you to have a happy, healthy life. Come see us if you have any concerns about your skin cancer risk and your overall wellness.