Skin cancer is an issue of growing importance in the United States. It was not long ago that sun worshipers bathed their bodies in cocoa butter, baby oil, and even mayonnaise to achieve that much-desired dark tan. Times have definitely changed. In addition to being aware of the dangers of tanning, Americans now know to look for warning signs of skin cancer and to minimize as many risk factors as possible. Some are genetic and can't be altered. Some are wholly within your control.
1. Fair Skin: Not only is fair skin more likely to burn, but people with freckles and fair features --light colored eyes and hair -- are more susceptible to skin cancer. The same melanin that naturally darkens skin at a cellular level, protects it from the sun's UV rays. The less melanin you have, the less natural protection.
2. High Altitude: As obvious as it sounds, people that live in higher altitudes have a greater risk of skin cancer simply due to their close proximity to the sun. According to the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, radiation from the sun's UV rays "increases 4 to 5 percent for every 1,000 feet above sea level."
3. Warm Climates: Living, retiring, or even vacationing in warm, sunny climates can also increase your risk factors by increasing your exposure to the sun. In fact, Arizonans, with their 211 days of annual sunshine, are twice as likely to get skin cancer than their northern neighbors in Minnesota.
4. Sunburns: Anyone with a history of sunburn, particularly bad sunburns with peeling or even sun poisoning, are also at an increased risk of skin cancer. Sadly, a person's risk for melanoma, the most serious form of skin cancer, doubles after five sunburns. Unfortunately, a person fastidious with sunscreen and hat usage as an adult may have had excessive burning as a child, when it was out of their hands.
5. Radiation: Treatment for other forms of cancer through radiation therapy does increase the risk of skin cancer but, in this case, it is a necessary risk.
6. Family History: Having a family member who battled skin cancer is an important fact to mention to your doctor because a family history of it increases the odds that you will also develop skin cancer at some point in your life. In turn, it should also encourage the liberal use of hats, high SPF sunscreen, and shade.
7. Weakened Immune: Patients with an existing weakened immune system are also at risk because their defenses are too weak to battle many things, from the common cold to the sun's harsh rays. Staying in the shade and covering their skin with both SPF sunscreen and long clothing can help.
8. Moles and Skin Lesions: Simply having a freckle or a mole removal does not necessarily mean that you have skin cancer. It does mean, however, that you should pay careful attention to your skin. Excessive moles, moles that change shape, size, or color, and any rough skin lesions are risks that could later develop into skin cancer.
9. Sun Exposure: People that work or spend a lot of time outdoors have a higher risk of various forms of skin cancer. The sun's UV rays can cause damage with repeated exposure over time. The artificial light used in a tanning bed, however, generates UV rays 12 times more powerful than the sun. Protecting your skin with sunscreen, long sleeves, hats, and by avoiding tanning beds can lower your risks.
10. Previous Skin Cancer: If you have experienced skin cancer in the past, you are statistically more likely to get it again. In fact, a study in the United Kingdom found that patients are ten times more likely to have another case of skin cancer.
So, How Can You Fight Skin Cancer?
The easiest way to fight skin cancer is to be vigilant and monitor your skin for changes. Some risk factors are simply not preventable, but examining your skin for changes and discussing those changes with your doctor are the keys to fighting back. See your dermatologist for a regular check of your skin, to monitor any moles, and to remove them, when necessary. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation recommends seeing your physician once a year for a thorough skin exam.
A few years ago, my father visited a dermatologist for the first time in his life. During this visit, he was diagnosed with several skin cancers. Thankfully, my dad’s dermatologist expertly removed these cancerous spots. If you’ve haven’t visited a dermatologist before, consider doing so sooner rather than later. Many forms of skin cancer are completely treatable if they’re detected early. Besides seeing a dermatologist, you should inspect your skin for any changes regularly. This is especially important if you have numerous moles on your body. On this blog, I hope you will discover ingenious tips to help you protect your health. Enjoy!