One in five Americans will develop skin cancer at some point in their lifetime. Skin cancer is the result of mutations in the DNA of skin cells; the mutations cause a person’s skin cells to multiply rapidly and form cancer cells. What causes these mutations to occur? Some skin cancers may be the result of genetics, while others could develop after exposure to toxic substances, or in individuals with weakened immune systems.
The primary known cause of skin cancer, though, is the sun. People who live in sunny locations or those who have had excessive sun exposure or a history of sunburns are most at risk. When Dr. Perri discovers a malignant mole during a skin cancer screening, it’s very often in individuals who have spent a lot of time in the sun. One of the best things you can do to decrease your risk of skin cancer is to protect yourself from the sun—here are three helpful tips.
Wear Sunscreen All the Time
You might be vigilant about applying sunscreen before you go to the pool or plan to spend a long day outside, but do you apply it every day? Living in a sunny city, you’re exposed to the sun’s rays even more than the average person—often while you’re not even thinking about it. The sun beats down on you as you drive, take a walk on your lunch break, or bring the kids to the park. Work a broad spectrum sunscreen that’s at least an SPF 30 into your daily routine, and you’ll have a much better chance of getting a clean bill of health at your next skin cancer screening.
Be Mindful of the Time
The sun can burn you at any time (even if it’s cloudy outside), but its rays are the strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. A little bit of sun during this time is recommended for Vitamin D production, but try not to spend any more than 20 minutes outside during those hours if you can help it. You’re much more likely to suffer a sunburn if you’re outside for too long between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Don’t Forget Your Head
When you go out in the sun, any exposed portion of your body should be protected—and that includes your scalp. Too many people forget about their scalps and suffer sunburns where their hair parts or on the entire head if they are bald. It’s completely possible to develop skin cancer on your scalp, and you may not even realize it’s there until your dermatologist finds it during a skin cancer screening.
You may not want to put sunscreen on your scalp because it could make your hair greasy, but try to at least get it on the skin where you part your hair. If you can, wear a wide-brimmed hat so you can protect your scalp and shield your face from any damaging rays.
Schedule an Annual Exam with Your Dermatologist
Even if you’re doing all the right things to keep your skin protected from the sun, it’s still a good idea to schedule a yearly skin cancer screening with your dermatologist. Early detection is key in treating and beating different skin cancers, so it’s important to be safe and stay on top of the health of your skin.
Overdue for your annual skin cancer screening? Contact Dr. Perri at Perri Dermatology to schedule an appointment at one of our two offices.