4 Important Facts About Preventing Skin Cancer That You Didn't Know

Skin cancer affects more people in the United States every year than all other types of cancer combined. Excessive sun exposure is responsible for most nonmelanoma skin cancers, which have seen a 77% rise in diagnosed cases over the last 15 years. Thankfully, skin cancer is highly preventable, and nearly all cases can be completely treated if identified early.

Of course, you’re familiar with the importance of using sunscreen in preventing the harmful effects of the sun, so the team at SkinMD has compiled a list of four lesser-known tips to help you prevent skin cancer or at least detect it as early as possible.

1. Minimize sun contact while driving

Whether you’ve got a long commute to work, you’re driving your children to their piano lessons or soccer practice, or you’re simply on the go all day, it’s important to take steps to minimize your sun exposure while you’re in the car.

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, more than half of all skin cancers appear on the left side of your body — the driver’s side — and over 80% appear on the head or neck — the areas most exposed when you’re driving.

Your car window blocks UVB rays, but more than 60% of UVA rays pass right through. While you might welcome the warmth when you’re driving in the winter, these dangerous UV rays are taking their toll on your skin.

To protect yourself while driving, make it a habit to apply sunscreen every morning, even in the winter. When appropriate, wear long sleeves to protect your shoulder and arm, and fight the urge to rest your elbow on the open window. You can also buy protective window film that screens out UVB and UVA rays completely.

2. Melanoma can take on a variety of forms

Melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. It’s usually caused by sun damage or too much exposure from tanning beds, and it occurs when radiation sparks change in your cells. The skin cells begin to reproduce rapidly and form tumors that are often malignant.

Many people are familiar with the large, irregular, raised, brown moles that signal melanoma, but the life-threatening disease can take on other forms. Melanomas can be raised or flat, smooth or rough, big or small, and purple, red, pink, brown, or the natural color of your skin.

So how can you tell if you have a melanoma?

If you don’t see a dermatologist once a year, now’s the time to begin. Only your dermatologist can determine if that spot is cancerous. Plus, it’s much easier to treat precancerous cells than skin cells that have already become cancerous.

3. Dark skin makes melanomas harder to spot

A melanoma can appear anywhere, even as a spot on the fingers, palms, soles of the feet, or toenails — places that are easy to miss. But for people of color, melanomas can be particularly difficult to spot. Bob Marley, the famous reggae singer, died of a melanoma under his toenail. Success rates in treating melanoma tend to be lower among people with darker skin tones because the cancer isn’t caught in its early stages often enough.

Regardless of the color of your skin, it’s important to perform self-exams once a month to make sure no new spots have appeared anywhere on your body, including under your fingernails and toenails.

If you do detect something new, call SkinMD and set up an appointment right away, and always maintain annual skin checks with Dr. Pruden.

4. Check your head for spots or growths

Since such a large proportion of skin cancer cases occur on the head and neck, it’s critical to check these areas regularly for any abnormalities. Ask your significant other or a good friend — or even your hairstylist or barber — to check your head for any growths or spots. This is one thing you can’t do for yourself, and it could literally save your life-

If you’re overdue for your annual skin cancer prevention check, call SkinMD or book an appointment online with Dr. Samuel J. Pruden for expert skin care and treatment.

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