By Mary Barber MD, The Skin Cancer Center of Central Florida –
One in 5 Americans will develop skin cancer over their lifetime. Of the 7 most common cancers ONLY skin cancer rates are going up. The chance of you getting the other types of cancer, like colon cancer, is decreasing. That is the bad news. The good news is that this is a “lifestyle disease”. There are several measures you can take to prevent skin cancer. It was commonly thought that 80% of your sun damage occurred before you were 18 years old. We now know that number is only 23%.
So every year that you can protect your skin from this known carcinogen – UV light (from tanning booths and sunlight), you can decrease you chances of developing skin cancer. And you will look better! When you look in the mirror, note that your aging skin comes from the sun and smoking. Wrinkles, age spots, broken blood vessels, saggy skin, the sun is not exactly the fountain of youth!
To reduce your risk of skin cancer and improve your appearance, the following steps are suggested:
1) Stay in the Shade– Park your golf cart in the shade, move your conversations to the shade, cover your head and ears with a hat – you do not have as much hair as you think!
2) Do Not Tan or Use Tanning Booths – Any tan is a body’s response to injury. There is no such thing as a good tan. Sunburn is even worse.
3) Use Sunscreen Every Day – and lots of it! Put it on places that you don’t think of getting sun. Every day I operate on skin cancers in the ear, behind the ear, on hands/fingers and toes. Wear sunglasses. I see and operate on many skin cancers on the eyelids.
4) Use A Sunscreen That Works! -You need a SPF of 30 and one that is broad spectrum and water resistant. I like Coppertone Sport. But there are many other excellent ones out there.
5) Use Enough Sunscreen – apply double what you are now applying and you will be close to what is recommended. If you still have a bottle of sunscreen for a few months, then you are not using enough. We live in Florida – the Sunshine State!
6) Wear Sun Protective Clothing – these are available through catalogs like Coolibar and Solumbra. Columbia clothing can be found in stores. They have a SPF of 50.
7) Examine your skin every month and remember for the ABCDE’s for melanoma
A – Asymmetry – the top does not look like the bottom and the right does not look like the left
B – Border –it should be nice and regular
C – Color – look for black, red, blue. Anything but a nice even brown should be examined
D – Diameter greater than a pencil eraser
E – Evolving – this is a new or growing lesion
Map any suspicious lesions and bring the map to your skin care professional. A good map is found at www.skincancer.org
8) Get A Yearly Skin Exam. Your skin is the most accessible organ of the body and should be examined by a trained professional once a year from head to toe. At the Skin Cancer Center of Central Florida we are experts in the detection and treatment of skin cancer. Our Providers are trained to use a dermascope which greatly assists us in determining which lesion to biopsy and which is benign. 70% of our biopsies are cancerous. This excellent statistic eliminates unnecessary biopsies. This saves our patients the trauma and cost of a biopsy.
If you do get a Basal Cell Carcinoma or a Squamous Cell Carcinoma, get the facts on treatment options. You are a unique individual and your skin cancer treatment plan should reflect that. Get a second opinion. Work with your skin cancer professional to decrease your chances of getting another cancer.
May is Skin Cancer Awareness Month! Treat yourself to a complete skin exam. You will be glad you did.
About Dr Barber
Dr. Mary F. Barber has performed over 15,000 Mohs procedures. She limits her practice to the treatment of proven skin cancer patients. New patients who need skin checks are welcomed at the Skin Cancer Center and should make an appointment to see Dr. Corwin, Nurse Practitioner Mary Jane Oates, or Physician Assistant Theresa Saleh. No referral is needed.
Skin Cancer Center of Central Florida