While skin cancer is often caused by UV radiation (around 90% of non-melanoma skin cancers being caused by it), you’re never too old or too tanned to start avoiding skin cancer. Genetic damage in the skin caused by sun exposure permanently increases your chances of skin cancer so the sooner you start avoiding skin cancer the better. Here are a few things you can start acting on, in order to immediately start reducing your risk of getting skin cancer:
Sunscreen Isn’t Overrated: Put it On!
The age-old defence again sunburns is one of the most important weapons in avoiding skin cancer. You may think that it takes too much time to reapply it every hour or that it is too expensive but one thing is for sure: a battle with cancer is a lot more costly and inconvenient than slapping on some sunscreen. Make sure to use a generous amount and don’t forget your ears, feet and the back of your hands.
If you’re planning on being out in the sun, try to put it on an hour before going out. It actually takes about that long to absorb into you skin properly. Also, remember to only use products that say that they are broad-spectrum: they will give protection for both UVA and UVB light radiation. Aim for a product that is SPF 30+.
Remember that Avoiding UV Radiation is More than Just Sunscreen
Avoiding skin cancer still isn’t as easy as putting on sunscreen, unfortunately. Try to stay out of the sun during peak summer hours and cover up a bit. Wearing a hat can really help protect your head. You can get skin cancer on the top of your head and it can be very difficult to detect. Wearing sandals that cover most of the top of your feet or pants and long sleeve shirts (if you are very photosensitive and have a light complexion) may also be recommended. While being in the water may help prevent sunburns, it isn’t going to do much for avoiding skin cancer. Remember that sunscreen should be worn then too.
Is tanning really worth skin cancer? We certainly don’t think so. With more than 30 million Americans using tanning beds each year, it’s clear that we have a bit of an obsession with trying to have darker skin. As mentioned, each tan is permanently increasing your skin cancer risk. If you really want to start avoiding skin cancer, you need to start with one simply rule: stop tanning.
The “base tan” is also something that simply doesn’t exist. While it may slightly increase your resistance to sunburns, it still causes increased cancer risk and only gives you about SPF4-worth (at best) of protection. That’s certainly not going to do much.
Get a Skin Cancer Screening
They may seem inconvenient, you may not like going to the doctor and you may have to pay for them but they may also save your life. Moles and other skin markings can turn cancerous and your doctor or dermatologist should be able to detect which ones may have done so. Early detection has saved many lives, by finding skin cancer in an early enough stage that it is easily treatable. The longer you wait, the lower the chances of that happening.
While those with a darker complexion have a much lower risk of skin-related cancers, they also have a lower survival rate. Skin cancer can be more difficult to detect on darker skin and many people may avoid screenings, under the pretence that they don’t believe they can get skin cancer. That is a very dangerous way to think. If you want to avoid skin cancer, having your skin checked annually is a good idea.
Another good place to start is to look at a few of the cancer myths out there, so that you have a better idea of how you should start avoiding skin cancer. At OncoSec, we are currently conducting clinical trials for Merkel cell carcinoma, metastatic melanoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma: three deadly types of skin cancer. For more information on OncoSec or to join our online community, please visit us on Facebook and Twitter.