Although you may not hear as much about skin cancer as you do about other types of cancers, such as breast or lung cancer, skin cancer is actually the most common type of cancer in the United States. Rates of melanoma — the deadliest form of skin cancer — have doubled over the last 30 years.
Our expert dermatologists at Specialists in Dermatology want to lower your risk for skin cancer. How high is your personal risk? Read on to find out.
Your skin is fair … or dark
No matter the tone of your skin, you can still develop skin cancer. Even though the rates of skin cancer are lower in people with dark skin tones, skin cancer in that group can be more deadly. However, melanoma rates are highest in non-Hispanic Caucasians.
Although most skin cancers are caused by the sun’s UVA and UVB rays, not all skin cancer is sun-related. Especially in women and men who have dark skin tones, skin cancer tends to develop in areas that rarely see the light of day, such as between the fingers and toes or on the soles of the feet.
Every month, be sure to inspect your skin thoroughly from top-to-bottom, looking for moles that have changed shape or size, or new lesions, particularly ones that are multicolored, oozing, or don’t heal. Use a mirror for hard-to-check areas, such as your back, scalp, and between your buttocks.
You had a sunburn
The sun’s UVA and UVB rays cause tanning (your skin’s attempt to protect itself from damage) and sun burns. The sun’s rays also alter and damage your DNA. Just one third-degree sunburn (i.e., with blisters and peeling) in childhood or adolescence doubles your risk for melanoma.
However, every type of sunburn you get — from just a slight pinkening of your skin to full-out red and peeling — injures your skin, prematurely ages it, and increases your risk for skin cancer. If you’ve had five or more sunburns over the course of your life, your risk is doubled.
You’re outdoors a lot
You need sunshine to produce vitamin D, and you need fresh air, too. However, too much sunshine is bad for your skin and increases your risk for skin cancer.
If you play outdoor sports or work outdoors, take extra precautions to keep your skin safe. You don’t need a sunny day to burn, either; 80% of UVA and UVB rays penetrate clouds.
You don’t use sun protection
Ideally, you should avoid the sun’s rays when they’re at their strongest, which is usually from about 10 am-4 pm. Whenever you’re outdoors, head for the shade, and make some yourself by dressing with a:
- Wide-brimmed hat
- Long sleeves
- Long skirt or slacks
Don’t forget the sunscreen. Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen that has a sun-protection factor (SPF) of 30-50. A broad-spectrum deflects both UVA and UVB rays. If you’re worried about the chemicals in sunscreens, choose one that contains minerals, such as zinc oxide, that deflect the sun away from your skin. Be sure to reapply as directed.
You’re over 50
A lifetime of sun exposure and sun damage vastly increases your risk for skin cancer. Before age 50, women are more likely to get skin cancer than men are, but after age 50 men’s rates increase, too.
An annual skin cancer screening with your dermatologist helps catch any skin cancers or precancerous lesions at their earliest, most treatable stages. If you do have skin cancer, we then remove the cancer. Most skin cancers are curable, if caught early enough.
Your annual screening also gives you a chance to get personalized advice on the best type of sunscreen for you. We only recommend medical-grade sunscreens that keep you and your skin safe. Daily use of sunscreen can reduce your risk of skin cancer by 40%.
To preserve your skin’s beauty and health, and reduce your risk for skin cancer, contact us at Specialists in Dermatology in Houston, Texas, or The Woodlands, Texas, today. Phone the office nearest you, or use our online form.