Our skin – the largest organ of the body – is truly amazing. It covers and protects our internal organs, prevents fluid loss, controls body temperature, allows waste removal and communicates with the brain to allow sensation. But often, we neglect this awe-inspiring organ out of a lack of effort or for the sake of a sun-kissed complexion. The result is this: Skin cancers represent 50% of all cancers diagnosed in the United States, with 1 in 5 Americans developing some form in their lifetime. For Melanoma Awareness Month, Dara Spearman, MD, PPG – Premier Dermatology and Skincare, walks us through the risks, prevention and what to do about those suspicious moles.
Risk factors for skin cancer are:
Multiple or unusual moles
Severe (blistering) sunburns in the past
- Are present midday
- Affect the surface of the skin
- Cause skin cancers by damaging DNA
- Cause sunburns
- Are constantly present
- Penetrate deeper into skin
- Damage skin
- Suppress the immune system
- Prime the skin for UVB damage
Less than 33% of young people practice sun protection. Consider these steps for safety in the sun:
- Avoid the sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Look for shade, especially in the middle of the day
- Wear protective clothing
- Generously apply sunscreen
- Be cautious near snow, sand and water (reflective surfaces)
- Get your vitamin D safely (diet and vitamin supplementation)
- Stop smoking
- No tanning!
Quick facts about sunscreen and sunblock:
- Apply SPF 15 if you’re going to be out and about running errands, SPF 30 or higher if you will be out in the sun for an extended period of time.
- SPF 30 with UVA and UVB protection can block 96.7% of UVB rays.
- Apply sunscreen or sunblock 15 minutes before you go out, and reapply every 90-120 minutes after that.
- Spray sunscreen is fine, if applied correctly. Don’t forget to spray your scalp, hands and face.
- An average person should be applying 1 ounce (a shot glass portion) of sunscreen at each application.
- Powder sunscreen is great for the face, but should be applied under makeup. Do not rely solely on makeup that includes SPF. This will likely not be strong enough.
- Apply sunscreen even at indoor waterparks.
If I have a suspicious mole, when should I get it checked?
You should schedule a checkup if a mole is:
- drawing your attention
Just remember the ABCDEs of melanoma:
- Border irregularity
- Color changes
Are tanning beds safe in small doses?
Tanning makes you 74% more likely to develop melanoma than those who have not tanned indoors. Just 4 visits per year increase risk of melanoma by 11%.