How To Prevent Melanoma Skin Cancer And Beat The Odds
When it comes to skin cancer, no one is safe. Though we think of it as a disease that primarily affects older adults, melanoma skin cancer can strike anyone at any age. In fact, according to recent data from the American Cancer Society, incidence rates of this particularly nasty form of skin cancer are soaring among young people. Consider these facts. The rate of melanoma diagnosis has more than doubled for women and almost tripled for men in the last 30 years, making it the fifth-most-common type of cancer for young adults (ages 20 to 39) and the second-most-common type of skin cancer for young men and women. And while there are many genetic factors related to risk, approximately 90 percent of all cases are triggered by ultraviolet rays from the sun or tanning beds. Here's what you need to know about how you can prevent melanoma skin cancer — and reduce your risk if you find yourself at high risk because of family history or other factors:
Melanoma skin cancer warning signs
Early detection is key when it comes to melanoma. Luckily, there are a few telltale signs that you should be on the lookout for if you are at high risk:
A change in the size, shape, or color of a mole - This is the most important sign. Moles are naturally irregular in shape, so if you notice that one mole has changed in color, size, or shape, it should be examined by a medical professional immediately.
A mole that itches, bleeds, or looks like it's spreading - You should also see a doctor about any mole that seems abnormal.
A new mole in an unusual place - New moles can also be a sign of melanoma. See a doctor if you notice a new mole that pops up in an area of your body where you don't have any moles.
Risk factors for developing melanoma skin cancer
There are certain risk factors that increase your likelihood of developing melanoma, including:
Skin color - People with fair skin are more likely to develop melanoma than those with darker skin types due to the fact that they produce less melanin. This pigment protects the skin from UV rays.
Age - Melanoma is most common in people between 40 and 60.
Sex - Men are more likely to develop melanoma than women.
Family history - If melanoma runs in your family, you're at a higher risk of developing the disease. The risk increases if both parents have melanoma.
Excessive sun exposure - Both naturally occurring and artificial UV rays are the number one cause of melanoma, so be sure to wear sunscreen and limit your time in the sun.
How to protect yourself from melanoma skin cancer
While it's important to know the risk factors for developing melanoma, it's even more important to take steps to protect yourself from the sun. Some ways to do this include:
Wear sunscreen - Make it a rule to always wear sunscreen when you're in the sun, even when it's cloudy outside. You can use a sunscreen designed for your face or a spray sunscreen designed for the whole body.
Wear protective clothing - It's not just your skin that needs protection from the sun. Make sure to wear a hat, long sleeves, and pants when you're outside to help shield your skin.
Use a UV-blocking window tint - If you don't want to completely change your outdoor lifestyle, you can use UV-blocking window tint to help reduce the number of UV rays coming into your house.
Check Your Moles And Know The Signs Of Change
First, make sure you know what to look for when examining your moles. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, the main warning signs of melanoma include: Most important, if you spot anything that seems abnormal, call your doctor and get it checked out as soon as possible. Melanoma-related deaths can be reduced by more than 50 percent if caught early. Here's how to spot possible changes: If any of the above signs are present, or if you see changes in size, shape, color, itching, or bleeding, have your skin examined by a dermatologist.
Stay Out Of The Ultraviolet Rays
Exposing your skin to ultraviolet rays is the number one risk factor for developing melanoma — and the earlier you start using sun protection, the lower your risk will be as an adult. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher on exposed skin year-round — even when it's cloudy. The best way to protect your skin is to wear loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing and a wide-brimmed hat outdoors. If you're going to be in the sun for more than an hour, use a water-resistant sunscreen to avoid getting sunscreen on your skin. And if you're going to be at a high altitude, sunscreen won't provide enough protection. In these cases, it's best to use sunscreen with a higher SPF — such as SPF 50.
Talk To Your Doctor About Risk Factors And Prophylaxis
Suppose your family history includes melanoma (or another skin cancer). In that case, it's important to make sure you get yearly skin checks — and make your doctor aware of your family history so he or she can keep an especially close eye on you. In addition, if you have fair skin or freckles, have had a lot of sun exposure or have a large number of moles on your body, or have acquired a certain type of benign mole (known as dysplastic nevi) that has the potential to turn into melanoma — you're at higher risk of getting melanoma. Your doctor may suggest periodic screenings with a diagnostic device called a dermoscopy, which can detect subtle changes in moles that might indicate the presence of melanoma.
Protect Your Skin With Clothing, Sunglasses, And SPF
In addition to wearing sunscreen and avoiding sun exposure as much as possible, consider the following tips to protect your skin from UV rays: It's also important to be diligent about protecting children from exposure to the sun. Make sure they wear long-sleeved shirts and pants outdoors, even on cloudy days. Make sure they apply sunscreen with an SPF 30 or higher UVA and UVB protection every two hours while in the sun, and always wear sunglasses.
Get Regular Physical Activity
Exercise is one of the best ways to protect your health. Studies show that getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise each week can significantly lower your risk of developing skin cancer. The benefits of exercise extend beyond just lowering your risk of melanoma, including lowering your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and stroke — and it may also help with weight loss!
When it comes to preventing melanoma skin cancer, you can't be too careful. Make sure you understand what skin cancer is, how to recognize the signs of change, and how to keep your skin safe from harmful UV rays. With these precautions in place, you can significantly reduce your risk of getting this dangerous form of cancer and enjoy the sun (and your skin) more. With these precautions in place, you can significantly reduce your risk of getting this dangerous form of cancer and enjoy the sun (and your skin) more.From the Web