I treat my patients with the same respect and care that I would provide my family. I want my family to be free of skin cancer, so that means I want that for my patients, too. Skin cancer has quickly become the most common cancer in the United States, and melanoma skin cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related deaths, with the rate rising over the last few decades.
The journey to healthy and cancer free skin can be complicated and even time consuming. Here are some tips to remember on your journey to cancer-free skin.
Sunscreen should be broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB rays), sun protection factor (SPF) 50 or greater, and water-resistant.
- Apply sunscreen to dry skin 15-30 minutes BEFORE going outdoors. Be sure to apply it generously to achieve the UV protection indicated on the product label.
- Re-apply sunscreen approximately every two hours or after swimming or sweating heavily, according to the directions on the bottle. If the bottle specifies a lower water resistance time, then reapply according to those guidelines (i.e. water resistance of 60 minutes needs to be applied every 60 minutes).
- Skin cancer also can form on the lips. To protect your lips, apply a lip balm or lipstick that contains sunscreen with a SPF of 50 or higher.
Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses, when possible. Not all clothing is equal and certain fibers provide more protection. Seek out clothing lines that have special sun-protective qualities.
Seek shade when appropriate, remembering that the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If your shadow is shorter than you are, find shade.
Use extra caution near water, snow and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun, which can increase your chance of sunburn.
Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that may include vitamin supplements rather than from sun exposure.
Avoid tanning beds. Ultraviolet light from the sun and tanning beds can cause skin cancer and wrinkling. If you want to look tan, consider using a self-tanning product, but continue to use sunscreen with it.
Be aware of sun sensitive medications. Certain medications can cause a phototoxic reaction where the medication absorbs UV light and then release it into the skin, causing cell damage. Consult your provider about sun sensitive medications. If you have been prescribed any of the common medications that can cause problems, use plenty of sunscreen and avoid outdoor activity during the hottest parts of the day when UV rays are the strongest.
Examine your skin regularly – at least once per month. Know what’s normal for your body and take inventory of all moles and spots. From that inventory, develop a routine and form a habit of checking your skin from head-to-toe once a month. During the check, make note of any changes or additions. Spotting things that are different and potentially worrisome are the purpose of skin exams.
Sunshine is not the only cause of skin cancer. The sun plays a big role, but is not the only environmental cause of skin cancer. Chemical exposure, radiation, smoking, genetics, family history, and tanning beds can contribute to increased risk of skin cancer. Be aware and mindful of the environmental causes you can avoid.
Establish a dermatologist. Are you worried about that mole? Losing sleep over that strange freckle? Were you a fake-baker? It is important to have a dermatologist you see regularly that you feel comfortable with. A great ice-breaker is to start with a basic skin cancer screening. Annual check-ups are often recommended, but if an area of concern appears, more frequent check-ups are acceptable.
Be proactive about your skin’s health. Schedule a skin cancer screen at Truyu Aesthetic Center. This quick and easy process involves a skilled dermatologist carefully examining your skin.
Dr. Saba Zabetian is a dermatologist at Truyu Aesthetic Center. She provides dermatology and dermatologic surgery services, with special interests in psoriasis and connective tissue diseases. Outside of work, she enjoys playing cello, drawing, painting, biking, skiing and swimming.