Skin cancer is by far the most common cancer in the country. If you added up all of the other cancers in this country, they still would not equal the number of skin cancers we see each year. Last year alone, there were more than 5 million skin cancer cases treated in the United States. In fact, 1 in every 5 Americans will develop a skin cancer by the age of 70. We treat well over 2,000 skin cancers each year at SkinCare Physicians near Boston and Dr. Thomas Rohrer, a Mohs surgery expert, wants you to know how to minimize your risk.
The good news is that skin cancer is largely avoidable and generally curable with treatment. Even melanoma, when detected early has a 5-year survival rate of 99 percent. Since almost all skin cancers are a result of sun exposure, the most important thing to do is to minimize your sun exposure and to have any new or changing spot on our skin looked at by a board-certified dermatologist.
With summer fast approaching, it is time to ramp up our sun protection. While the national recommendations are to use sunscreens with an SPF >15, Dr. Rohrer always recommends using even more protective sunscreens, ones that have an SPF > 50. They do not look any different on the skin than lower SPF sunscreens and provide even more protection from the harmful UV radiation of the sun. Apply a lot of it! It is recommended to use a full shot glass worth of sunscreen in each full body application so be generous with your application. It is also important to re-apply every few hours and even sooner if you are swimming (even if the sunscreen has a water-resistant labeling). Wearing a wide-brimmed (not baseball style) hat is also very beneficial. The broad rim blocks way more sun on the face than a baseball style hat. Using long sleeved sun shirts is also helpful. They come in very breathable materials now and are actually quite stylish. Don’t forget about your eyes. Pick up some good polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes.
It goes without saying that you should never use indoor tanning. The ultraviolet radiation emitted from an indoor tanning device is estimated to be 10 – 15 times higher than the sun at its peak intensity, and has been designated by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a Group 1 list of cancer-causing agents (along with cigarettes). Any use of tanning beds is associated with a higher risk of skin cancer and that risk increases with each use of a tanning bed. People who first used a tanning bed before the age of 35 have a 75% increased risk of melanoma! Fortunately, indoor tanning among high school students has decreased by roughly 53% over the past decade.
So do what you can to avoid the mid-day sun, protect yourself with sunscreens and clothing, and be sure to have any new or changing spot evaluated by a board-certified dermatologist like the ones here at SkinCare Physicians in Chestnut Hill. Detecting skin cancer early is the best way to cure it. Protecting yourself from the sun will also help keep your skin looking great! Sun exposure is estimated to be responsible for up to 90% of what we consider skin aging. Sun damage is cumulative throughout one’s life so there is never a bad time to start protecting your skin!
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