Skin Cancer: Prevention is better than Cure

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Most skin cancer can be prevented by practicing sun protection, according to numerous research studies. Research also shows that not only does sun protection reduce one’s risk of developing skin cancer; sun protection also may decrease the likelihood of recurrence.



Even if you have spent a lot of time in the sun or developed skin cancer, it’s never too late to begin protecting your skin. The American Academy of Dermatology (Academy) recommends that everyone protect their skin by following these sun protection practices:



Sun Protection Practices

Avoid deliberate tanning! Lying in the sun may feel good, but the end result is premature aging (wrinkles, blotchiness, and sagging skin) as well as a 1 in 5 chance of developing skin cancer. Tanning beds and sunlamps are just as dangerous because they, too, emit enough UV radiation to cause premature aging and skin cancer.

If you like the look of a tan, consider using a sunless self-tanning product. These products do not protect skin from the sun, so a sunscreen should be used.

Get vitamin D safely through a healthy diet that includes vitamin supplements. Don’t seek the sun.

Generously apply sunscreen to all exposed skin every day. The sunscreen should have a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 15 and be broad-spectrum (provides protection from ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays).

Dermatologists worldwide agree that the Australians’ use of the word “slop!” accurately describes how sunscreen should be used. Most people do not apply enough sunscreen to help protect against harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. One ounce, enough to fill a shot glass, is considered by the Academy to be the amount needed to cover the exposed areas of the body properly. So when applying sunscreen, remember to “slop!” it on.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Don’t forget your ears, nose, lips, neck, hands, and toes. Many skin cancers develop in these areas.
  • Sunscreen should not be used to prolong sun exposure. Some UV light gets through sunscreen so you will always tan but not burn!
  • Sunscreens should be applied to dry skin 15-30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapplied every two hours.
  • Be sure to reapply sunscreen after being in water or sweating.
  • Sunscreen does not make sunbathing safe.

Wear protective clothing, such as a long-sleeved shirt, pants, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses, where possible. This is what Australians call the “slip!” and “slap!” of sun protection. When you will be out in the sun, be sure to slip on protective clothing, such as a shirt, and slap on a wide-brimmed hat. Here’s why: Clothing protects your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. The tighter the weave, the more sun protection provided.
A wide-brimmed hat shades your face and neck from the sun’s rays. Wide-brimmed means the brim circles the entire hat and shades both the face and neck.

Seek shade when appropriate. The sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Use extra caution near water, snow, and sand as they reflect the damaging rays of the sun. This can increase your risk chance of sunburn.

Check your birthday suit on your birthday. If you notice anything changing, growing, or bleeding on your skin, see a dermatologist. Skin cancer is very treatable when caught early.

More Good Reasons to Practice Sun Protection

Aside from skin cancer, the sun’s UV rays also cause:

  • Premature aging: Signs of premature aging include wrinkles, mottled skin, and loss of skin’s firmness.
  • Immunosuppression (weakening of the body’s ability to protect itself from cancer and other diseases)
  • Cataracts and macular degeneration: Macular degeneration, for which there is no cure, is the leading cause of blindness in people aged 65 and older.

3 Habits Parents Should Encourage for a Lifetime of Healthier Skin:

Practices that we learn early in life, such as brushing our teeth twice a day and washing our hands before eating, often become lifelong habits. To help children have a lifetime of healthier skin, dermatologist recommend that parents encourage the following habits at an early age:

  • Practice Sun Protection 
Protecting a child’s skin from overexposure to the sun can significantly reduce the child’s lifetime risk of skin cancer. Some studies suggest that sun protection in children may even reduce the number of moles that develop. Fewer moles can reduce the lifetime risk of developing melanoma, a potentially deadly skin cancer.

Sun protection does not mean that your child cannot enjoy spending time outdoors.
  • Sunscreen tips from a dermatologist:
    If your child’s skin is sensitive or prone to an allergic reaction, be sure to test the sunscreen first. Applying a dab on the child’s inside upper arm offers a reliable test. If redness or a rash develops within 24 hours, another sunscreen should be used.
    A sunscreen that contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide is less likely to cause a reaction. These ingredients sit on top of the skin.

  • Avoid Tanning
The United States Department of Health & Human Services has declared ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun and artificial sources, such as tanning beds and sun lamps, as a known carcinogen (cancer-causing substance). 

Be a good role model by not getting a tan from the sun or artificial tanning devices such as tanning beds. Children are easily influenced by what they see their parents do.
  • Check Skin Regularly 
Regular skin self-exams are important. In teenagers and adults, these exams can help detect skin cancer in its earliest stage. To encourage your child to perform regular skin self-exams later in life, dermatologists recommend:

    Perform regular skin exams of your child’s skin. This can encourage regular skin exams to become a habit.

    Teach your child how to perform a skin self-exam.

    Check your own skin regularly, and let your child know that you perform regular skin self-exams.

  • These habits are important year round. You do not to wait for a day at the beach to teach sun protection or how to perform a skin exam. You can start today.

    April 8th 2011 |

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