More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year – more than cancers of the prostate, breast, lung, colon, uterus, ovaries and pancreas combined.
As warm and comforting as the sun feels on the skin in the moment, it’s just as dangerous in the long term. The rise in the prevalence of skin cancer mostly is due to overexposure by teenagers, leading to problems later in life. As such, this “lifestyle disease” is very much preventable.
The American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS) partnered with Neutrogena four years ago to create Choose Skin Health, resulting in more than 6,500 free skin cancer screenings. One in 10 people undergoing the screenings were diagnosed with skin cancer.
The goal of Choose Skin Health is to encourage the practice of sun-safe behaviors, including skin cancer prevention through screenings, the regular use of sunscreen and monthly self-exams.
An ASDS online search feature makes it easy to find a dermatologist offering free skin cancer screenings in your area.
“Ninety percent of skin cancers are related to ultraviolet ray damage, and most of that damage occurs to young people,” said ASDS President Timothy C. Flynn, M.D. “If you choose to have fun in the sun, you need to take the necessary precautions. Skin cancer is too great a threat to be taken lightly.”
You can’t always avoid the sun, but you can avoid skin cancer with these five important tips:
• Avoid outdoor excursions when the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays are at their strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Indirect sunlight also can be dangerous as UV rays that reflect off water, sand, concrete and even areas painted bright white can cause sun damage.
• Apply at least 30 SPF sunscreen and a broad-spectrum lip balm a half hour before exposure to the sun and reapply regularly when outside as the risk of developing skin cancer doubles if you’ve had five or more sunburns in your lifetime.
• Wear appropriate clothing. A white T-shirt only provides the protection of an SPF 4 sunscreen, so darker colors or tightly woven fabrics – such as silk and polyester – are safer options. A wide-brim hat can reduce exposure of the scalp, forehead, neck, ears and eyes by 70 percent.
• Stay out of tanning beds as people who use them at least once a month increase their risk of skin cancer by 55 percent, according to studies, and the numbers are even more ominous for people who begin such tanning regimens in their 20s or teens.
• Examine your skin regularly, especially looking any new black-colored moles or changes in the size, shape, outline, color or feel of existing moles. Immediately contact your dermatologist if you see anything suspicious.
“It’s human nature for people to want to enjoy the sun,” Flynn said. “Just as with everything else, though, moderation, taking the proper precautions and regular screenings are the keys to lessening the prevalence of skin cancer.”