Skin cancer is common but you can reduce your risk
Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer, and children are particularly at risk. A single sunburn before the age of 13 doubles their lifetime risk of melanoma.
The good news is that skin cancer is highly preventable. The main cause is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays, which can be avoided by limiting your time in the sun, or in tanning beds.
Summer is obviously when our skin is exposed to more sunlight for longer periods of time as we enjoy the outdoors. The UV rays of the sun penetrating through clouds in the summer and indirect UV rays from sunlight reflecting off the snow in the winter are sneakier risks.
Highly treatable if caught early
There are several types of skin cancer:
- Basal cell and squamous cell account for the vast majority of skin cancers. They can often be found early, when they are likely to be easier to treat.
- Melanoma is less common than some other types of skin cancer, but it is more likely to grow and spread. There are also other skin cancers that are relatively rare.
The experts at New England Cancer Specialists will assess which type of skin cancer you have, and develop a treatment plan to achieve your best outcome.
Skin Cancer Prevention Tips
The bottom line is that we all love sunshine, whatever the season. Our skin cancer specialist Dr. John Winters says it’s OK to enjoy the sun. You just need to take sensible precautions:
Seek out shade when the sun’s rays are strongest, generally between 10 am and 2 pm each day. You can find clothing with SPF, and wear hats with wide brims to protect your scalp and face. Use extra caution on boats, around the water, or at the beach, where the sun's rays reflect and intensify, increasing your risk of a sunburn.
Tanning Beds: The indoor UV risk.
UV rays from tanning indoors are just as dangerous as exposure to the sun. We strongly urge you not to use tanning beds.
Use an SPF of at least 30 for sun protection. Make sure you find a product that offers broad spectrum protection (protection against UVA and UVB rays) and is water resistant. Apply sunscreen about 15 minutes before you go outside.
How much do you need to apply? An adult should use about 1 oz - the size of a shot glass. Be sure to reapply every two hours, or after swimming or excessive sweating.
More details on sunscreen can be found on the American Academy of Dermatology website, here.