According to the American Cancer Society, Skin cancer is the most common of all cancers. It accounts for nearly half of all cancers in the United States. More than 3.5 million cases of basal and squamous cell skin cancer are diagnosed in this country each year. Melanoma, the most serious type of skin cancer, will account for more than 76,000 cases of skin cancer in 2014.
The good news is that skin cancer is one of the most preventable types of cancer. By making a few changes to your normal routine, you can help decrease your odds of ever developing skin cancer.
Every nurse that I’ve worked with provide the same basic instructions to patients regarding skin cancer prevention. These preventive measures are echoed by the American Academy of Dermatology and the Skin Cancer Foundation. They are as follows:
- Apply sunscreen, with an SPF-30 or higher, that protects against both UVA and UVB rays, to all areas of the body that are exposed to the sun.
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, even on cloudy days. Reapply after swimming or perspiring.
- Minimize exposure to the sun at midday, between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Wear clothing that covers the body and shades the face. Broad-brimmed hats should provide shade for both the face, ears, and back of the neck. Wearing sunglasses will reduce the amount of rays reaching the eye, and protect the lids of our eyes as well as the lens.
- Avoid tanning beds. Lights used in tanning beds emit UV rays and can increase your risk of skin cancer.
- Be aware of sun-sensitizing medications. There are many drugs that can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. These include some antibiotics, cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes medicines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like Advil or Motrin; birth control pills and acne medicines.
- Ask your doctor if you should take Vitamin D. There are some doctors that believe, based on new research, that Vitamin D may help to lower the risk for some cancers. Vitamin D is made naturally by your skin when you are in the sun. How much vitamin D you make depends on many things, including how old you are, how dark your skin is, and how strong the sunlight is where you live.
Children and the elderly need special attention because they can burn more easily. Parents and other caregivers should protect them from excess sun exposure especially in parts of the world where it is sunnier. Children need to be taught about the dangers of too much sun exposure at a young age.
“The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) approves of the use of sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months old if adequate clothing and shade are not available. Parents should still try to avoid sun exposure and dress the infant in lightweight clothing that covers most surface areas of skin. However, parents also may apply a minimal amount of sunscreen to the infant’s face and back of the hands.”
Not all skin cancer can be prevented, but your chances will be greatly reduced if you check your skin regularly and follow these preventive measures.