The temperatures outside are rising and spring is quickly turning to summer. Now more than ever people are ready to get out of the house. Spending more time outside, especially in the sunshine, feels great for your mind and body. But as we pull out the summer clothes and swimsuits we might also be reminded of the dangers that can come along with prolonged sun exposure — namely, skin cancer.
What is Skin Cancer?
Skin cancer is the out-of-control growth of abnormal cells in the epidermis, the outermost skin layer, caused by unrepaired DNA damage that triggers mutations. These mutations lead the skin cells to multiply rapidly and form malignant tumors. The main types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC), squamous cell carcinoma (SCC), melanoma and Merkel cell carcinoma (MCC).“Skincancer.org
What Causes Skin Cancer?
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is the leading cause of skin cancer but beware, UV light from tanning beds is just as dangerous. Additionally, excessive or unprotected sun exposure in the cooler months can cause just as much damage as sun exposure during the warm seasons.
Cumulative sun exposure causes mainly basal cell and squamous cell skin cancer, while episodes of severe blistering sunburns, usually before age 18, can contribute or lead to melanoma later in life. Other less common causes are repeated X-ray exposure, scars from burns or disease, and occupational exposure to certain chemicals.1
Who is Most at Risk for Skin Cancer?
According to WebMD, although anyone can get skin cancer, the risk is greatest for people who have:
- Fair skin or light-colored eyes
- An abundance of large and irregularly-shaped moles
- A family history of skin cancer
- A history of excessive sun exposure or blistering sunburns
- Lived at high altitudes or with year-round sunshine
- Received radiation treatments
How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer?
The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Don’t get sunburned.
- Avoid tanning, and never use UV tanning beds.
- Cover up with clothing, including a broad-brimmed hat and UV-blocking sunglasses.
- Use a broad-spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher every day. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant, broad- spectrum (UVA/UVB) sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Apply 1 ounce (2 tablespoons) of sunscreen to your entire body 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating. Find sunscreen by searching our Recommended Products.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Use sunscreen on babies over the age of six months.
- Examine your skin head-to-toe every month.
- See a dermatologist at least once a year for a professional skin exam.
- Get all the details: Your Daily Sun Protection Guide.
Since the two main causes of skin cancer are harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and UV tanning machines, it is best to limit your exposure to both sources. But when UV exposure is unavoidable always be sure to protect yourself. Luckily, if skin cancer is caught in its early stages, your dermatologist can treat it with minimal scarring and good chances of stopping it in its tracks. Often, your dermatologist may also be able to find problem areas before they become cancerous, which is why it is very important include your dermatologist in your regular healthcare routine.