Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States, according to the CDC. The most common types of skin cancer are treatable but can cause disfiguring scarring. I worked as a nurse’s assistant for almost three years in my 20s and saw many patients, young and middle aged alike, suffer through skin cancer treatments and surgeries. Most skin cancer is preventable.
Who Is At Risk? Who is at risk for skin cancer? Everyone. Anyone who is exposed to the UV rays that the sun, tanning beds, or sunlamps give off is at risk. UV rays change skin cells over time and the more exposure you’ve had, the greater your risk becomes. There are certain groups of people who are at a higher risk such as those with fair skin tones, those who tan, and those with a history of sunburn, but anyone can develop skin cancer. These are the people who have the greatest risk for developing skin cancer:
- Fair skin tones and those with blue or green eyes, blond or red hair, skin that easily freckles or reddens in the sun
- Those with a large number of moles or moles that may be precancerous
- Those who work in the sun or have spent a lot of time in the sun
- People who have used indoor tanning beds
- People who have had multiple sunburns or blistering sunburns as children
Reduce Your Risk: There are some simple things that anyone can do to lower their risk of developing skin cancer.
- Avoid tanning beds of any kind
- Avoid being in the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. because these hours are the greatest UV exposure hours
- Wear sunscreen each day on all areas exposed to the sun. Many people use sunscreen on their face but forget their neck, chest, arms and legs. Wear at least 15 SPF or higher.
- Always wear sunglasses when outdoors or driving that block UV rays
- Wear a hat when outdoors
Young Women: Young women today seem obsessed with looking perfect, thank you Hollywood. As if breast surgery, liposuction, and ridiculous diets aren’t enough, the popular look is the tan look. Many young women subject themselves to hours in the tanning bed for the tan look they want.
One of the saddest moments I can recall as a healthcare professional was the case of a young woman in her early twenties who had been tanning for years, every single day, sometimes twice per day who developed squamous cell carcinoma. She was a beautiful young lady with a wonderful personality, but for whatever reason, felt she didn’t look pretty when she wasn’t tan. She lived through her treatments but her scarring was extensive. Chunks of her face had to be removed, literally…chunks. Multiple plastic surgeries still left her with dips and scars in her face. I spent hours trying to cheer her up.
If you want the tan look, there are multiple sunless tanning products available that provide a natural look without the dangers associated with tanning. If you develop skin cancer, I promise you that you will regret tanning just to have a darker skin tone. It isn’t worth the pain, expense, or scarring.
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