Skin cancer affects about one in 5 adults in the United States. It’s also preventable in most cases, as most skin cancers are caused by too much sun or indoor tanning.
Some recent developments may help with diagnosis and treatment. New technology using shortwave rays similar to a retail scanner can detect skin cancer as accurately as conventional methods. This could enable early diagnosis without having to do skin biopsies.
Also, while COVID-19 has delayed treatment for some patients, the growth in teledermatology could help millions more. Video sessions and apps could increase access to dermatologists and oncologists and enhance the quality of care.
Meanwhile, there is already overwhelming evidence about the effectiveness of sunscreens and other simple precautions. Learn more about skin cancer and how to protect yourself and your family.
Basic Facts about Skin Cancer:
- Know the varieties. There are 2 main types of skin cancer, melanoma and non-melanoma, which includes basal and squamous cell skin cancers. Melanoma is more serious but much less common. It accounts for about 1% of cases.
- Identify the causes. Most skin cancers are caused by exposure to ultraviolet radiation from the sun or artificial tanning. Other causes can include certain chemicals or human papillomavirus.
- Understand your risk. Many factors can make you more vulnerable. You may need to take extra care if you have fair skin, a history of severe sunburns, or multiple moles. Talk with your doctor about your individual concerns.
Preventing Skin Cancer:
- Limit sun exposure. A little sun works wonders for your mental health and vitamin D levels. However, you can help prevent wrinkles and skin cancer by avoiding tanning or burning. It also helps to stay in the shade when the sun is strong, usually from about 10 am to 4 pm.
- Apply sunscreen. Most experts recommend about 2 tablespoons of sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. Reapply regularly if you’re outdoors for more than a half hour.
- Cover up. Hats, shawls, and umbrellas help too. Some clothing manufacturers even use UPF labels to show how much protection their garments provide.
- Wear sunglasses. Your eyes and surrounding skin need coverage too. Look for shades that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB light.
- Consume vitamin A. Studies show that foods high in Vitamin A may help prevent skin cancer. Smart choices include sweet potatoes, broccoli, carrots, and mangoes.
- Check your surroundings. Water, sand, and snow reflect the sun, so you can wind up with almost a double dose. High altitudes intensify the effects too.
- Avoid tanning beds. Women who tan indoors before they turn 30 are 6 times more likely to get melanoma, according to the American Academy of Dermatologists. Listen to the FDA and the World Health Organization warnings that tanning devices pose serious health risks.
Treating Skin Cancer:
- Scan your skin. Skin cancers are highly curable if caught early, so examine your skin with a mirror each month. Tell your doctor about any changes or areas of concern. If you’re at high risk, you may also need an examination by a dermatologist at least once a year.
- Consult your doctor. There are many treatment options depending on what type of skin cancer you have and other factors. Your physician may recommend surgery, laser treatments, or medication.
- Follow up. Having skin cancer once puts you at higher risk for developing it again. Follow your doctor’s orders for follow up care.
Skin cancer rates have been increasing for years, but you can lower your risks. Limit your exposure to the sun and use sunscreen consistently year-round. That may be especially important now if you’re doing more outdoor exercising and dining. Your skin will look younger and healthier.