Summer is quickly approaching and it will soon be time for grilling, camping and spending hours at the beach shaking sand out of your hair. But unfortunately, your skin doesn’t love the sun as much as you do. While we all need a little vitamin D to keep our bones strong, sitting unprotected under our favorite star for too long can cause all sorts of problems – sunspots, wrinkles, freckles and, yes, even cancer.
The good news is that melanoma, the most common cancer in America, can usually be prevented by early detection.
If you’ve been thinking about that mole, or worried that there maybe something hiding on your back out of sight, now is the time to schedule a screening. Even if you have no reason to think that you may have a funky skin spot, you should still consider getting regular skin screenings by a dermatologist. Here are a few reasons why now is the perfect time…
Be smart going into summer
While any time of year works, the springtime is a great time for skin screenings in preparation for the sun. Don’t wait until you get that first sunburn of the year to start panicking about skin damage, have a professional check you before you hit the heat so anything suspicious can be flagged and to give you some peace of mind.
Checks are quick, easy and painless
Unlike many preventative checks, skin screenings are totally noninvasive and require zero blood work. The doctor simply looks you over with the naked eye, searching for spots that may be problematic. In some cases, the exam can take less than ten minutes – basically, you can prevent cancer in less time that it takes to cook a pizza. Skin cancer survivor Rachel Cruz said that the skin screening that caught her early stage melanoma took only a few minutes, but even then she nearly skipped it. “I’m glad I ended up keeping that appointment. It saved my life.” She said.
Melanoma can develop anywhere on the body
Melanoma is not just skin cancer. It can develop anywhere on the body – eyes, scalp, nails, feet, mouth, etc. Checking yourself or your partner at home is a good idea, but it can only be so effective, and while women are nine times more likely than men to notice a melanoma on another person, even they can’t check their own backs.
A quick visit to a local dermatologist who knows exactly what they are looking for is always the safest bet.
Early detection is everything
Unlike most cancers, skin cancer is easily caught early and prevented. The cure rate for two of the most common types of skin cancer, Actinic Keratoses and Basal Cell Carcinoma is at around 95% if you catch them early.
Also compared to other cancers, melanoma is relatively more common in younger people. According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, it is the leading cause of cancer death in young women ages 25-30 and the second leading cause of cancer death in women ages 30-35. In ages 15-29, melanoma is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer. The incidence of people under 30 developing melanoma is increasing faster than any other demographic group, soaring by 50% in women since 1980. So it’s important that people of all ages get checked out.
Everyone is susceptible
The most recent guidelines from the Melanoma Management Journal suggest that those at highest risk of skin cancer are males with blonde or red hair and lots of freckles. Also people with a history of skin damage, heavy tanning or blistering and those with numerous birthmarks are considered high risk. Race also plays a role in risk – the lifetime risk of getting melanoma is about 1 in 40 for Caucasians, 1 in 200 for Hispanics and 1 in 1,000 for African Americans. That being said, everyone is susceptible.
Even with screenings, always protect yourself
May is the start to summertime fun in the sun, but it’s important to note skin care prevention is a year-round goal. “I tell all my patients that sun protection is part of living a healthy lifestyle,” says Dr. Deborah Sarnoff, President of the Skin Cancer Foundation. “The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher for every day, and an SPF of 30 or higher for extended outdoor activity.” Wearing long sleeves and pants whenever possible also helps lower the risk of developing skin cancer while still enjoying the great outdoors.