Skin Cancer Prevention Tips and Tricks
Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the US. Prevention and proper checks to catch warning signs of melanoma at an early stage is crucial. We are talking with Dr. Nelson to cover all her melanoma prevention tips and tricks for a healthy happy summer!
Did you know? The leading cause of melanoma is overexposure to damaging UV rays from the sun and artificial sources such as tanning beds. Melanoma is one form of skin cancer (there are 3 major types including melanoma).
Melanoma signs include:
- A large brownish spot with darker speckles
- A mole that changes in color, size or feel or that bleeds
- A small lesion with an irregular border and portions that appear red, pink, white, blue or blue-black
- A painful lesion that itches or burns
- Dark lesions on your palms, soles, fingertips or toes, or on mucous membranes lining your mouth, nose, vagina or anus
Where are the most common places where skin cancer occurs?
- Face (including lips)
- Scalp (especially those with bald/thinner hair)
- Ears (especially those with short hair cuts)
- Neck (most common in men)
- Arms and Hands
- Chest and Back
- Legs (more common in women)
Dr. Nelson's tip for prevention of skin cancers:
1. Wear Sunscreen.
Make sunscreen a daily habit. We all have someone preaching the good word of sunscreen but does it actually matter? The answer is yes! It not only prevents sunburn, reduces risk of skin cancers, but it also is imperative to prevent premature aging like fine lines, sun spots, and wrinkles. UV radiation can still damage skin even in the winter and on cloudy days. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen (protects against UVA and UVB rays) with SPF of at least 30.
Here are some of the top-rated dermatologist recommended sunscreens for your face:
Best Active/Oily Skin: Super Goop
Best Overall: Elta MD
Best Budget: Cetaphil
Read more about top recommended dermatologist sunscreen products.
2. Wear Protective Clothing.
Protect your body with sun-protective clothing, hat, and sunglasses. Did you know a white T-shirt has an SPF of about 8? That means your body is getting some major sun even if you don't feel the burn. Luckily, brands have noticed a need for safer UV protective clothing with options ranging from 20 SPF to 50!
Some of our favorite protective brands? Lands End, Lululemon, Athleta, Outdoor Voices, Columbia, Eddie Bauer, Coolibar
Amazon has amazing brands at a great price-point with quick delivery!
As if we needed an excuse to click add-to-cart!
3. Avoid Peak Rays.
Seek shade during the mid-day sun, when the sun's rays are most intense. The higher the UV Index score, the greater the amount of potential skin and eye damaging radiation. At high UV Index levels (6 or greater), significant damage can occur in just a few minutes. As we enter into our warmer months, the UV index increases. Missouri's average UV for May is around a 7.
Keep track of your UV index by month!
4. Don't Use Tanning Beds.
Indoor tanning has been shown to increase the risk of melanoma by up to 75%. Melanoma is one of the top three cancers diagnosed in young adults (ages 25-29), and scientists attribute this trend to the use of tanning beds among this age group, particularly young women.
How does tanning affect our skin? Tanning is caused by the skin's attempt to protect itself from damage caused by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds. This causes genetic damage to cells on your outermost layer of skin. To prevent further injury, our skin produces melanin (the pigment that gives our skin its color) that results in darkening. Learn more on SkinCancer.org
5. Protect Children.
All the same rules for sun exposure protection apply to children over 6 months. Remember to apply sunscreen every 2 hours when they are playing, swimming or sweating. Just one bad sunburn in childhood or adolescence doubles your child's chances of developing melanoma later in life.
Always protect sensitive young skin! Dr. Nelson's kids enjoy outdoor activities in their protective gear with sunscreen.
6. Use Caution with Sun-Sensitizing Medications and Topicals.
Some common prescription and over-the-counter drugs, including antibiotics and acne medications, can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. For topicals, tretinoin and retinol, which are vitamin A derivatives, are a staple in many womens' skin care routines. They both promote rapid exfoliation and stimulation of collagen and elastin, which leads to smoother-looking skin. While these active ingredients both combat signs of photoaging (aka wrinkles, rough skin, uneven skin tone, and enlarged pores), they make your skin more sensitive to sun exposure and increase risk of burning. Proper SPF, sunglasses, hats and protective clothing are imperative when using these medications and topical ingredients.
Ask your doctor, pharmacist, or dermatologist about the side effects of any medications you take. If they increase your sensitivity to sunlight, take extra precautions to stay out of the sun in order to protect your skin.
If you're interested in reversing sun-damage and aging due to sun exposure here are some of the top recommended products.
7. Use your ABC's
SkinCancer.Org cites the ABCDE's to recognize the warning signs of melanoma:
- A is for Asymmetry. Most melanomas are asymmetrical. If you draw a line through the middle of the lesion, the two halves don't match, so it looks different from a round to oval and symmetrical common mole.
- B is for Border. Melanoma borders tend to be uneven and may have scalloped or notched edges, while common moles tend to have smoother, more even borders.
- C is for Color. Multiple colors are a warning sign. While benign moles are usually a single shade of brown, a melanoma may have different shades of brown, tan or black. As it grows, the colors red, white or blue may also appear.
- D is for Diameter or Dark. While it's ideal to detect a melanoma when it is small, it's a warning sign if a lesion is the size of a pencil eraser (about 6 mm, or ¼ inch in diameter) or larger. Some experts say it is also important to look for any lesion, no matter what size, that is darker than others. Rare, amelanotic melanomas are colorless.
- E is for Evolving. Any change in size, shape, color or elevation of a spot on your skin, or any new symptom in it, such as bleeding, itching or crusting, may be a warning sign of melanoma.
If you notice these warning signs and symptoms, or see anything NEW, CHANGING or UNUSUAL on your skin see a dermatologist promptly.
Photo Credit: SkinCancer.Org
For more information about ways to protect and prevent melanoma we have our skin cancer expert, Dr. Nicole Nelson
For information on Melanoma Removal
To schedule a consultation to meet our team, learn more about our services and find out which treatment options will best meet your needs, call Columbia Surgical Associates at 573-443-8773.