How Regular Self-Checks Can Reduce Your Risk of Skin Cancer
Few things feel better than getting outside on a sunny day to enjoy the pool, a beach bike ride, or a long walk with your dog. But before you head outside for some healthy exercise, it’s important to remember the sunscreen, and positive steps that you can take, to reduce your risk of developing skin cancer.
Why Skin Cancer Is a Serious Health Risk
Unless you have a friend or family member who has been diagnosed with skin cancer, the chances are that you don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the risk that sun exposure presents to your health. Many people believe that skin cancer is an easy and non-life-threatening condition; after all, doctors can detect it and remove it, with non-invasive in-patient surgery.
Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas are the most common types of skin cancer diagnosed, and they both have high curable rates, if they are detected and removed early in the cell development. The five-year survivor rate for people who detect melanoma early, is 98%, but only if they were able to find the instance of skin cancer, and have it removed quickly.
When skin cancer is not detected quickly, it moves into two stages of advancement, called the ‘regional’ and the ‘distant’ stage. More education and awareness is needed to educate on the low survival rates of skin cancer, after it has been allowed to spread and metastasize in the body. For individuals with stage two skin cancer (regional) the survival rate is 62%, because it is still possible to surgically remove the cells from a localized site. However, in the advanced distant stage of melanoma, the survival rate is only 18%. That means that skin cancer is fatal for 82% of individuals with late stage melanoma, and according to the Melanoma Research Foundation, it is the second leading cause of cancer death in women 30-35 years of age.
Indoor Tanning May Be Addictive
With all the information available about melanoma and a strong link to indoor tanning, it can be difficult to understand why so many people still engage in the practice. Research studies have shown that regular use of tanning beds, before the age of thirty, increase an adult’s risk of developing melanoma by a staggering 75%. Melanoma doesn’t impact individuals ‘later in life’, as statistics demonstrate that it is the most common type of cancer for adults 25-29 years of age, and the second most common cancer diagnosis among adults 15-29 years.
A recent study has shed some light on the habit of tanning. Since UV light increases the release of endorphins, people who enjoy tanning regularly receive a feeling of reduced pain, happiness and well-being. The study demonstrated that tanning may be as addicting as other high-risk cancer-causing habits, such as smoking. The study also revealed that after treatment for skin cancer, many individuals return to indoor tanning, and the use of oils and other products that escalate skin damage.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Developing Skin Cancer
It is important to remember that your risk of exposure to UV damage is can happen at any time. There are misconceptions that on cooler temperature and overcast days, that there is less of a risk, in terms of UV exposure. No matter how cold or hot it is outside, summer or winter, your skin is exposed to damaging effects from the sun, that can result in a serious health condition. Between the hours of 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., UV rays are typically the strongest in the continental United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Seasonally, the greatest risk for sunburn and skin exposure is from late spring to early summer, in North American regions.
How can you reduce your risk of skin damage and melanoma?
- Stay in the shade as much as possible when you are outdoors, and wear light clothing that is loose and comfortable, that covers arms, and legs.
- Upgrade your sunscreen to an SPF 30 or higher, particularly if you have fair skin, and avoid using suntan oils and other accelerants that amplify sun damage.
- Wear a hat, and choose sunglasses that block both UVA and UVB rays, to protect against eye damage from UV exposure.
- Avoid indoor tanning, which are equally, and sometimes more harmful to the body. Tanning beds increase the risk of developing skin cancer.
Remember to check yourself regularly for discolorations on the skin, abnormal moles and other blemishes. Bookmark this diagram and instructions from SkinCancer.org.