Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States and worldwide. By the age of 70, 1 in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer (1). More Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer each year than all other cancers combined. More than 2 Americans die of skin cancer every hour! But the good news is skin cancer is one of the most preventable cancers, and one of the most curable if caught early. The 5-year survival rate for melanoma is 99% when detected early! And while certain risk factors make some people more or less likely susceptible, skin cancer can affect anyone at any age.
Here’s the good news: there are a few simple, effective actions you can take to reduce your risk:
Get an annual skin check. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends an annual exam with a dermatologist for all adults, more often if you are at high risk.
Cover up. Cover up with clothing, hats and sunglasses. Wear sun protective clothing when practical and in particular when the sun’s rays are intense, such as on a beach vacation or golfing. Sit under an umbrella, choose shade, and head inside during the hours of most intense UV between 10 and 2.
Wear sunscreen every day. Make it count! Make sure to apply to all areas of the skin that could be exposed, make sure to apply generously and evenly, reapply every 90-120 minutes as well as after swimming or sweating, and use only good quality sunscreen. (more on that later)
Take a supplement with Polypodium leucotomas, such as HELIOCARE Advanced or SUNISDIN. This is a natural substance derived from a fern with photoprotective properties. It is known to reduce skin cancer risk when taken regularly, as well as reduce visible signs of sun damage.
Stay out of tanning beds. Indoor tanning is very damaging to the skin, and is a significant factor in causing melanoma and other skin cancers. Using a tanning bed just once increases your risk of melanoma by 75%. Friends don’t let friends use tanning beds.
Monitor your own skin. Skin cancer is the cancer you can see! The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that all adults do monthly skin self exams. There are many good resources out there to learn what to watch for, such as the ABCDEs and the “ugly duckling sign”. During your annual skin exam, your dermatologist will also spend time educating you, so you can become your own skin’s expert.