Preventing skin cancer starts with self-exams

Preventing skin cancer starts with identifying the warning signs during self-exams

We’ve all been inundated with social messages to stay out of the sun, use sunscreen daily, report unusual moles, and have a dermatologist examine our skin yearly. It’s remained a hot public health topic for years — and for good reason. Skin cancer is the most common cancer diagnosis. Thankfully, it’s also the most preventable1.

Still, the thought of skin cancer is scary and knowing what to look for during self-examinations can be confusing. Part of our mission at Robin Care is to raise cancer prevention awareness and simplify the often complex information, so you can learn how to protect yourself.

What exactly is skin cancer, and what causes it?

Most skin cancer is caused by the very thing that we all love to bask in — the sun. Tanning beds are also a culprit. No matter what form it comes in, exposure to ultraviolet radiation (UV rays) can damage your healthy skin cells. When this happens, those damaged skin cells grow rapidly and can form a mass called a tumor. If the tumor is capable of growing and spreading to other parts of the body, it’s called cancer. Anyone, regardless of skin color, may develop skin cancer.

There are three main types of skin cancer2:

  • Basal cell carcinoma: This is the most common type and accounts for about 80% of skin cancers.
  • Squamous cell carcinoma: The second most common type of skin cancer, squamous cell carcinoma, makes up about 20% of skin cancers.
  • Melanoma: The rarest and most serious type of skin cancer is melanoma, accounting for only about 1% of all skin cancers.

When found early, all of these types of cancer are highly curable3. This means, however, that it’s important to perform regular self-examinations and report any unusual findings to your doctor.

What about Vitamin D — don’t I need to be in the sun to get enough?

While the sun is the most obvious source of Vitamin-D, it’s not the only source. Current research suggests that you only need 15 minutes of brief sun exposure to your face, arms, and hands 3 times a week4. However, experts also say that adding Vitamin-D supplements to your diet is a better idea. Vitamin-D might help lower your risk for some cancers, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about a plan that’s best for you.

How can I protect myself from skin cancer?

You can reduce your risk of some types of skin cancer by up to 78% by protecting your skin during your first 18 years5. But, like most people, you may not have been aware of how damaging UV exposure can be when you were growing up. It’s never too late to start taking care of your skin.

Knowing the risk factors for skin cancer, methods to protect your skin from UV exposure, which symptoms to report, and how to perform regular skin self-exams are important steps to take in order to detect the early warning signs of skin cancer.

Here’s one of the best resources we’ve found on risk factors and protecting the skin you’re in: The Prevent Cancer Foundation

Part of taking good care of yourself is making choices that help reduce or prevent your cancer risk. With skin cancer affecting nearly 5 million people a year, it’s important that you begin prevention now.

Sources

1. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/call_to_action/index.htm
2. http://www.cancer.net/cancer-types/skin-cancer-non-melanoma/introduction
3. https://www.cancer.org/cancer/skin-cancer/prevention-and-early-detection/what-is-skin-cancer.html
4. https://preventcancer.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Skin-Cancer-Fact-Sheet-2013.pdf
5. https://preventcancer.org/learn/preventable-cancers/skin/

 

  • October 12, 2017