What to Know About Skin Cancer Prevention
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month, so it is important to take the time to review some relevant topics. Skin cancer awareness and prevention become especially relevant as summer approaches and sunlight exposure increases.
Ultraviolet radiation is the most common cause of skin cancer. UV exposure typically occurs as a result of sunlight. Indoor tanning can also cause damaging exposure to UV rays. The most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma. While there can be several factors that affect how likely one is to get melanoma, experts agree that UV exposure increases risks and, as with other types of skin cancer, comes first among melanoma causes.
Tips for Prevention
The best thing you can do to reduce skin cancer risks and promote skin health is to limit your exposure to UV rays. Here are some essential tips:
- Put sunscreen on all exposed skin. Products with SPF 15 and up that shield from both UVA and UVB rays provide the best protection.
- Reapply sunscreen as needed throughout the day. Sweating, washing your hands and face, or going for a swim can all cause the sunscreen to come off faster, even if it is a water-resistant product.
- Let your clothing cover your arms and legs. If you are spending the day at the beach, consider wearing a cover-up when not in the water.
- Get additional protection during a long day outside by using sports and swim clothing that provides coverage and is made of UV-resistant fabric.
- Protect your eyes by wearing UVA- and UVB-blocking sunglasses that cover your entire eye area.
- Shield your face and neck by wearing a hat with a wide brim.
- Avoid direct sunlight to the best of your ability.
Keep in mind that skin cancer awareness is not only for hot and sunny days. UV rays can cause damage even when it is cloudy, so it is important to develop and adhere to an effective protection routine at all times.
Increased Risk Factors for Skin Cancer
Anyone can get skin cancer. However, there are several factors that can increase the likelihood of this occurring:
- Family history of skin cancer
- Previous incidences of skin cancer
- Certain types of moles in large numbers
- Light skin color
- Tendency of skin to burn or freckle in sunlight
- Red or blond hair
- Green or blue eyes
If you possess any of the above, it is a good idea to be on the alert for warning signs. You may also need to have more frequent screening for skin cancer.
Signs You Should See a Doctor
Some types of changes in your skin can be danger signals for cancer. Consult a doctor if you see new growths on your skin or suffer from a sore that does not heal. Certain kinds of moles can arise due to melanoma. If you notice any of the following characteristics of new or old moles or spots, make an appointment as soon as possible:
- Asymmetrical, noticeably irregular shape
- Uneven, jagged edges
- Variations in color
- Size larger than a pea
- Noticeable changes occurring
Currently, experts do not recommend routine screening for skin cancer for those without a history or symptomatic moles. This makes skin cancer awareness all the more important, as you need to stay vigilant to catch concerning changes in your skin. If you do have a family or personal history, or a mole that concerns you, discuss this with your doctor, who can develop an appropriate plan for monitoring or more active screening.
Even small changes can signal a cancerous process. If you notice a change in your skin condition, speaking with a doctor immediately can give you the best chance of catching and addressing real problems effectively. For questions about skin cancer or concerns about skin health, make an appointment with a physician at Windsor Dermatology online or call the office at (609) 443-4500.