Thanks to an increase in honest conversation and coverage by popular publications, most people now know that too much sun exposure comes with risks. There’s the cosmetic stuff–like wrinkles, sunburns, and sunspots–but there’s also something more severe: skin cancer. Despite the dangers, many people, especially here in beach-loving Florida, continue to play in the sun without proper coverage in an effort to get a sun-kissed glow. Here are a few key things to keep in mind when it comes to spending time in the sun and looking out for this disease.
Many people think that skin cancer only happens among those with light skin. While individuals with a lighter skin tone and a history of excessive sun exposure are more likely to contract the disease, skin cancer can occur in all individuals. Another misconception is that it only occurs among those who are older and have spent years on the beach or in tanning beds. This is simply not the case. In fact, it is the most common form of cancer among adults 25 to 29.
Melanoma is probably the most recognizable form of skin cancer because it is often the most dangerous, but there are other varieties. Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, that is slow growing and rarely metastasizes. Squamous cell carcinoma is also common, but it has a higher risk of metastasis. While basal cell carcinoma might be a more favorable diagnosis than melanoma, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no “good” skin cancer to have. All diagnoses should be taken very seriously and treated promptly.
Catching skin cancer early often depends on preventative examination, both at home by individuals and in clinics by medical professionals. Keep an eye out for any moles or spots that have changed over time or are irregular in color or shape. This may mean using a mirror to view parts of your body that you might not see on a daily basis, like your shoulders and back. If you see a spot of concern, don’t hesitate to ask your primary care doctor or dermatologist about it. When you meet with your doctor, be sure to disclose any personal or family history of skin cancer.
Lathering up with sunscreen is a great way to prevent sunburns, which always indicate sun damage. However, sunscreen is only effective if you use it properly and consistently. When shopping, be certain to purchase SPF that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and reapply it frequently, especially if you have been in the water or sweating. It’s also important that you don’t skip areas. For example, it might not seem natural to apply the formula to the backs of your hands, the tops of your feet, or behind your ears, but those spots are prone to sun damage and are often overlooked.
Thankfully, technology has given us multiple ways to treat skin cancer. One option that we offer in our office is photodynamic therapy, sometimes known as PDT. Other options include spot extraction through surgery, prescription creams, and in the case of melanoma, radiation or chemotherapy.
In a world where tans are often valued as a sign of beauty, it can be hard to take a stand and stay protected, but that’s just what your skin needs you to do. If you have a spot you are worried about, need a screening, or just have questions about preventing skin cancer, don’t hesitate to call or make an appointment with us.