Although skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States — and it can be deadly — it’s also easily preventable in most cases. In fact, about 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancers and 85% of highly malignant melanoma skin cancers arise solely because of sun damage. Limit your exposure to damaging UVA and UVA rays, and limit your risk.
Paul Yamauchi, MD, Ph.D., founder of Dermatology Institute & Skin Care Center in Santa Monica, California, is an expert in a specialized skin cancer treatment called Mohs surgery. However, Dr. Yamauchi and our team agree that the best way to “treat” skin cancer is to prevent it from occurring in the first place.
Here are seven tips to keep your skin safe and cancer-free.
1. Use a full-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30-50
Whether you live by our Santa Monica coastline or out in the Valley, California’s sun is relentless. Whenever you’re going to be outdoors for more than a few minutes at a time, apply a generous layer of SPF 30 or higher full-spectrum sunscreen.
Look for sunscreens that have mineral-based blocks that reflect the UVA and UVB rays. Avoid chemical sunscreens that absorb the sun rays. The chemicals literally get under your skin and into your bloodstream.
2. Rethink your idea of “outdoors”
You use sunscreen on the beach or when you’re hiking in the mountains. But the Great Outdoors isn’t the only place where you’re doused with damaging UVA and UVB rays.
Just a walk across the parking lot exposes you to sunlight that could change the DNA in your skin cells. Even driving in your car or sitting by a sunny window at home or the office or in a restaurant exposes you to dangerous UVA and UVB rays.
3. Avoid that California sun
Almost anyone who comes to, or anyone who stays in, California does so, in part, for its beautiful sunny skies. But while sunshine feels good and you may like how you appear when you’re tanned, the sun can be abusive.
Whether you surf, hike, or just dash across town, try to do so when the sun is low in the sky. Avoid the sun between the hours of 10am and 4pm. Schedule your outdoor sporting events and get-togethers during sun-safe hours. Seek the shade of trees, shelters, and umbrellas whenever possible.
4. Shield yourself
Even the best sunscreen can’t protect your skin all by itself. Try to walk in the shade and wear wide-brimmed hats and light, flowing clothing, preferably with a sunblock woven into the fabric. And don’t forget the shades. Sun damages your eyes, too.
5. Rethink your tan aesthetic
If you think tanned skin looks healthy, you don’t know what tanned skin is. Tanned skin is damaged skin. The tan, in fact, is your skin’s attempt to protect itself from the sun’s rays.
Ditching the beach for a tanning salon won’t keep you any safer. In fact, it may cause even more severe damage. Tanning salons use ultraviolet rays to tan your skin, and those rays are a lot closer to you than the sun is.
Either make peace with your natural skin tone or find a spa that’ll give you a nontoxic spray tan. The fake tan won’t last as long, but it will improve the health of your skin.
6. Take time to examine your skin
Skin cancer often appears as a new lesion or changes to a preexisting mole. Get familiar with your own skin by checking yourself out top-to-bottom each month. Although skin cancer usually appears in sun-exposed areas, that’s not always the case. So check between your toes and fingers, and on your palms and soles, too.
7. See us for a screening
It’s hard to view every area of your body that could develop skin cancer, including the back of your scalp. You also may not know what you’re looking at if you do see something unusual on your skin.
An annual skin cancer screening gives you peace of mind that your skin is healthy or gives us a chance to treat skin cancer early when it’s easily cured. Of course, if you have a worrisome mole or skin lesion, give us a call between your annual exams.
To set up a skin-cancer screening or to have a mole or lesion evaluated or removed, call our Santa Monica, California, office or send us an online message today. You can also contact us for Mohs surgery if you’ve already been diagnosed with basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma.