How can I prevent melanoma and other types of skin cancer?
The most preventable risk factor for skin cancer is exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light, found in natural sunlight as well as indoor tanning devices. UV light is a known carcinogen and can penetrate window glass and even clouds, which is something a lot of people don’t realize. Sunscreens should be broad spectrum—at least an SPF of 30—and should be applied at least 15 minutes before going outside. Reapplication should happen every 2 hours, more often if you are swimming or sweating heavily. Don’t forget your lips—find a lip balm with at least SPF 30. There are many new formulations of sunscreen—sprays, gels, sunscreen sticks, and sweat-breathable formulations. If you haven’t liked sunscreen in the past, take another look! When possible, wear long sleeves/pants, wide-brimmed hats, and sunglasses, and avoid exposure to the sun between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Who is at the greatest risk for melanoma and other types of skin cancer?
People who tan or who have had a lot of sun exposure in their lives are at greater risk. Melanoma can strike all races and ages and can also be in places that are not exposed to the sun. The greatest risk of melanoma is in people who have:
- red or blond hair
- blue or green eyes
- greater than 50 moles
- large moles
- atypical (unusual) moles
- a blood relative who has had melanoma
- a previous diagnosis of either melanoma or non-melanoma skin cancer
- a history of other cancers, such as breast or thyroid cancer
You should examine yourself regularly to see if something new appears or if something changes. Remember to look at places you might not think to check, such as your soles of your feet. Make an appointment to see a dermatologist if you find something growing, changing or bleeding. If you have risk factors for skin cancer, you should be having regular skin checks with your dermatologist.