As the most prevalent cancer in the United States, skin cancer is a genuine concern for many. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, whether working, playing sports, or tanning, your risk may be even higher.
Exposure to the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays can make your body’s cells grow abnormally, causing skin cancer to develop. The most commonly diagnosed forms of skin cancer include squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma, and melanoma.
At MD Vein & Skin Specialists, we offer skin exams and mole mapping to check for signs of skin changes that could reveal precancerous or cancerous growths. Early detection is crucial, so let’s look at the factors that cause skin cancer and what you can do if you’re at risk.
Skin cancer risk factors
It comes down to this: The more unprotected time you spend in the sun, the higher your risk of developing some form of skin cancer. The following factors increase the likelihood even further:
- A light skin tone that burns or freckles quickly when exposed to the sun
- Family (or personal) history of skin cancer
- Use of tanning beds
- An abundance of moles, or irregularly-shaped moles
- A history of severe sunburns
- Certain skin conditions, such as actinic keratoses
I’m at risk — what should I do?
Protection from the sun is the number one way to keep skin cancer at bay, even without additional risk factors. Dr. Clement Banda shares his recommendations for sun safety and what you can do to prevent skin cancer.
Avoid UV rays
It feels great to be outside on sunny days, but without proper protection from UV rays, that momentary pleasure can lead to devastating health problems. Enjoy the sunshine safely by following these tips:
- Limit the time you spend outside, particularly between 10am and 2pm
- Seek shade when possible
- Use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher daily, even on overcast or rainy days
- Choose a wide-brimmed hat as an additional sun barrier for your face and neck
- Cover your arms and legs by wearing long sleeves and pants, ideally choosing clothes with a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor)
UV rays don’t take a break in the rain or snow. Build UV protection into your daily routine and in all weather when you have a higher risk of skin cancer.
Practice healthy habits
While it won’t make up for long hours spent in the sun, keeping your body healthy inside and out is important. Consider the following healthy habits to lower your risk of cancer:
- Drink plenty of water: your skin is more resilient when your body is hydrated
- Eat a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein
- Exercise regularly
- Get a good night’s sleep: rest is essential for your body’s repair processes
- Don’t use tobacco products, and limit alcohol intake
Most people have freckles, beauty spots, or moles that have been around since childhood, which is normal. There’s only cause for concern if something new shows up or existing ones change shape, texture, or color.
Examining your skin for signs of changes or irregularities is crucial to skin cancer prevention. Call us if you notice changes or new growth during a self-examination. Dr. Banda can examine and diagnose these lesions.
The most common forms of skin cancer are easy to treat when caught early. If your skin cancer risk is high, schedule skin checks and mole mapping with us regularly to assist with early detection. Call or click online to make an appointment at MD Vein & Skin Specialists today.