Skin cancer is by far the most common type of cancer. In fact, more people contracted skin cancer in the past three decades than all other cancers combined, and 20% of Americans will contract skin cancer at some point in their life. While skin cancer isn’t usually deadly, one person dies of melanoma every hour and, contrary to popular belief, people of all skin colors are at risk. Fortunately, there are a plenty of things that can be done to minimize your risk of skin cancer.
Minimize Sun Exposure
Exposure to harmful UVA/UVB rays from the sun is the single largest risk factor for skin cancer, so effective skin cancer prevention requires minimizing exposure to the sun. Tans and burns are huge risk factors for skin cancer later on, but sun exposure without tanning or burning still increases the risk.
Stay indoors or seek shade when the sun is at its most damaging, between 10 am and 4 pm. When outside, keep your skin covered as much as is comfortable for the weather. A wide brimmed hat and UV blocking sunglasses can provide protection for your face. Make sure screens are used to block infants from the sun without overheating them. Do not intentionally burn or tan, either in the sun or using indoor tanning devices. Use an artificial tanning product instead to get that bronze glow without the risk.
Wear SPF Daily
Of course, totally avoiding sun exposure is neither practical or healthy. One can reap the benefits of sun exposure while avoiding its dangerous effects by using sunscreen each day. A sunscreen with broad spectrum (UVA/UVB) protection and an SPF of at least 15 can be worn for everyday use. A sunscreen-only product can be used, but many cosmetics and moisturizers also offer sun protection, but check the label of a product to ensure that it offers broad spectrum protection of an adequate SPF before relying on it for protection. For extended outdoor activity, use a water-resistant broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or more. Apply about 2 tablespoons of sunscreen to the whole body at least 30 minutes before going outside. Reapply after swimming or significant sweating, and every two hours regardless of activity. Don’t forget easily missed areas, like the ears, lips, and the part of the hair.
Skin Cancer Examinations
Check yourself for skin cancer from your scalp to your feet at least once a month, and use a mole map to chart what you find, so you’ll know if something changes or if something new appears. Have a friend or family member help you check hard to see areas. Know the ABCDEs of identifying possibly cancerous or precancerous spots:
- Asymmetry: the sides of the mark don’t match
- Border: the mark has an irregular or undefined edge
- Color: color is uneven or unusual, such as black, white, red, or blue
- Diameter: the mark is larger than 6mm in diameter, or larger a pencil eraser
- Evolving: the mark looks different from others on your body or is changing over time
Remember, a spot does not need to have all or even most of these traits to be cancerous or precancerous. If you have a spot that meets any of this conditions, or simply seems unusual or “off” to you, consult a doctor right away.
In addition to monthly self-exams, have a physician perform a professional exam annually to determine if you may need skin cancer treatment.
Skin Cancer Treatment
Unfortunately, while protective measures certainly minimize the risk of skin cancer, even the most careful person can still experience it. In this case, surgical intervention is necessary to remove the cancerous or precancerous cells. Because of the risk for scarring, many patients elect to have the surgery performed by a skilled and experienced plastic surgeon, as plastic surgeons are both able to remove the growth and are knowledgeable about surgical techniques that minimize the chances of scarring. Some plastic surgeons, such as reconstructive plastic surgeons, actually specialize in these types of surgeries.
One of these types of plastic surgeons is Los Angeles based Dr. William J. Binder. Dr. Binder is one of the world’s leading facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons, and is board certified by both the American Board of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and the American Board of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery. Though Dr. Binder conducts and publishes research extensively, writes for industry publications, and often travels to lecture and train other surgeons, his greatest passion is in working with patients.
Avoiding skin cancer, like any cancer, is scary. Don’t choose just any doctor to perform your surgery. Choose a skilled, compassionate, and experienced surgeon who will help you through the process every step of the way, giving you the knowledge and support you need. Contact Dr. Binder’s office today to schedule your consultation.