Skin cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer, even above breast and prostate cancer. And skin cancer does kill: every 6 minutes one American dies from it. However, it is one of the most, if not the most, preventable type of cancer we face. It is estimated that over 90-95 percent of skin cancers can be prevented! Let’s take a look at what we can do to prevent it in ourselves, our children, and loved ones.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays are at their strongest between 10 AM and 4 PM. Whenever possible, schedule outdoor activities outside of those times.
Tanning beds. A few months ago The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a “black-box warning” stating that tanning beds should not be used on persons under the age of 18 years. Studies show that when women use tanning beds more than once a month, they have a 55 percent increased risk of developing melanoma. And melanoma is the second most common cancer in women ages 20-29 years old!
Head. Our ears, nose, and neck are particularly vulnerable despite being easy to protect. Wear a hat with a broad brim, meaning at least 3 inches wide. Although baseball caps offer protection for the nose
they do not provide protection for the ear and neck.
Sunblock provides protection against the harmful effects of radiation.
The term Sun Protection Factor, known as SPF, is the measure of the sunscreen or sunblock’s ability to prevent UV B damage to the skin.
What does this mean? If we apply an SPF of 10, that means that it will take 10 times longer for our skin to burn than if we did not have any on. Experts recommend the following: Select a broad-spectrum product that protects against UV-A and UV-B light and has an SPF of 30 or more; apply 1 ounce, equivalent to a shot glass, to the entire body 30 minutes before going outside; and reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
It is recommended that we examine our skin head-to-toe every month and see our physician every year for a professional skin exam.
Special note on kids
—Babies under 6 months should never be exposed to direct sunlight. Use a stroller with a hood or canopy and cover their skin, including their arms and legs, with protective clothing. Pediatricians do not recommend using sunscreen or sunblock on babies.
—Children should be taught to practice sun protection from an early age. A bad sunburn can double their risk of developing cancer down the road.
—Be our kid’s role model. Children are like sponges and love to imitate. If they see us protecting ourselves, it is more likely that they will too.
Skin cancer does not discriminate. Although darker skin tones have more melanin which serves as a natural protection, it does not provide a bulletproof shield. Skin cancer affects all genders, skin tones, and ages.
My heart and prayers are with my friend and for the success of her surgery, all for the physicians involved (and that the surgeon is able to remove the entire cancer); and for a speedy recovery too. Her wish and hope is that my family, friends and readers can prevent this highly “preventable” cancer by avoiding, protecting against, and blocking ultraviolet radiation and taking the steps to get checked.
“It’s about focusing on the fight and not the fright.” — Robin Roberts
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Dr. Nina Radcliff is dedicated to her profession, her patients and her community, at large. She is passionate about sharing truths for healthy, balanced living as well as wise preventive health measures.
She completed medical school and residency training at UCLA and has served on the medical faculty at The University of Pennsylvania. She is a Board Certified Anesthesiologist and a member of the American Society of Anesthesiologists where she serves on committees for Young Physicians and Communications. Author of more than 200 textbook chapters, research articles, medical opinions and reviews; she is often called upon by media to speak on medical, fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle topics impacting our lives, today.