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05-05-17 | Posted by

May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month.

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer, and there are more skin cancers than all other cancers combined. One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, and over 9,500 get diagnosed every single day according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). On average, one of us dies from a melanoma every hour. Think of it this way, in the time it takes to finish a Flywheel class, someone somewhere in the USA has died from this deadly form of skin cancer. Melanoma is the second most common form of cancer in females age 15-29, and the majority of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma.

Now do we have your attention?

The most common skin cancers are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma. The best cures for skin cancer are prevention and early detection. When I was a girl, my father went for an annual skin check with a Dermatologist on New York’s Fifth Avenue. He always had a few lesions that needed to be either scraped or frozen off or excised. I often went with him to his appointments and when he walked out of the exam room, he looked like his face went through a windshield. Those memories instilled fear of UV rays in me from an early age and to this day, I’m a big believer is a zero sun lifestyle.

So who should get screened for skin cancer?
Well basically everyone, but especially anyone who has any of the following:
  • Mole that changes in size, shape or color
  • Mole that looks different from your other moles
  • Spot on your skin that tends to bleed or scab
  • A red, waxy or scaly bump or patch on your skin
  • An open sore or ulcer that never heals up
  • Family history of skin cancer (like ME!)
  • Your own previous experience with skin cancer
  • History of unprotected sun exposure (you know who you are…)
  • Tanorexic tendencies and a love for tanning beds
  • Fair skin, blonde or red hair (naturally)

Feel The Burn?

Exposure to natural and artificial UV light is a risk factor for all types of skin cancer. Reduce the risk of skin cancer from UV exposure by using a broad spectrum sunscreen SPF30+ 365 days/year even on cloudy days. Most people don’t apply enough sunscreen, especially because it wears off after a few hours and needs to be reapplied. Dermatologists recommended a minimum of SPF30 and more is more. The more you block out the sun from every square centimeter of your skin, the less risk you have of developing skin cancer.

The standard measurements recommended for sunscreen are a teaspoon for the face and a shot glass for the body, which may sound like a lot but it really isn’t. “I tell my patients to apply a double layer of high factor sunscreen to make sure they don’t miss any spots,” says Dr. Judith Hellman, a New York City dermatologist. “Among the harder to reach areas that often get overlooked, the tops of the ears, under the chin, back of the neck, tops of the hands and feet, and the scalp are prone to sunburn. UV rays are all around you, even in cloudy days and all year round, not just during the summertime,” she says.

According to New York City dermatologist Arielle Kauvar, “Sunscreen should be part of every morning regime.  Apply any skincare serums or creams first, and then go for a broad spectrum sunscreen.  A tinted physical block with minimum SPF40 is great if you want to go makeup-free. I recommend a more moisturizing sunscreen for neck and décolletage. Always apply your sunscreen at least fifteen minutes before going out so it can absorb into your skin (and include areas where clothing may shift – such as bathing suit straps, bike shorts, etc.) “

Sunscreen is not enough if you are going to be outside and in direct sunlight for more than your lunch hour. Dr. Kauvar suggests wearing protective clothing, including a broad brimmed hat, sunglasses.  “When outdoors in the sun for prolonged periods (hiking, beach, sightseeing) take along a lightweight but tightly woven shawl or long sleeve T (rash guards are great)– just in case the sunscreen is just not enough,  a water bottle and Motrin/Advil.  If you feel a burn coming on, anti-inflammatory medications and hydration will go a long way to minimizing the effects of an acute sun burn. ”

The best bet is to try to avoid the sun from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are at their peak. And if you spend a lot of time in your car, UVA-protection films are a must for car windows. Dr Kauvar says, “In many states there is a legal limit for the amount of visible light filtered through the tints (20% in NY). Ceramic window tints have the benefit of reducing heat build-up in the car and do not interfere with electronic device signals.”

Find a dermatologist near you at AAD.org or ASDS.net




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