Of all the known skin cancers, melanoma is among the rarest but most lethal. The statistics show that men are affected more seemingly because of their carefree behavior. Compared to women, men will easily pass abnormal spots on their skin as harmless, or will never tell a doctor the full history of a shape-shifting mole.
Usually, women have health-seeking behavior and therefore, a higher chance of detecting and preventing melanomas before spreading to deeper skin. On the bright side, all examinations will be external on the skin and do not require invasive procedures or lab tests.
A lot of research has been done, and there are 100% proven ways to keep your skin healthy and reduce the risk of melanoma. For a start, you should spend less time outside when the sun turns up the heat. You could also protect your skin from harsh sunlight when outdoors.
Checking your skin occasionally is the best way of preventing skin cancer. This way, you will know when there is a change in the color or shape of a mole or a nagging lump on the skin that keeps growing. Here are some ways to reduce the risk of skin sun damage.
Keep your skin safe
- Avoid sun exposure during the hottest hours of the day, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Wear the right clothes outdoors:
- Loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts and pants that cover as much skin as possible
- Wide-brimmed hats that shade the face and neck
- Clothing that has sun protection factor (SPF) in the fabric that does not wash out. SPF, inbuilt protection to the material, is being incorporated into most lightweight clothes to keep you cooler.
- Wear the recommended sunscreen, with an SPF of 50 and higher, on all seasons. Apply it 30 minutes before heading out then after every two hours you spend outside, after exercising, sweating, or swimming.
- Preferably use water-resistant sunscreen lotion and not a spray.
- Since UVA and UVB cause more skin damage, your preferred sunscreen must offer protection against both. Apply it to all areas that are exposed to sunlight each day – your neck, face, and arms.
- Wear wraparound sunglasses that block UVB and UVA radiation.
- Surfaces covered with sand, water, or snow reflect almost all radiation from the sun and should be avoided.
- Research has proven that artificial sources of UV are carcinogenic, meaning they can cause skin cancer. They include tanning booths and sunlamps.
On a tanning bed are two sides – wanting to look good and avoiding skin damage. The goal is to just stay for the right time to prevent burns as this is literally not a bed of roses. A tan that doesn’t fade is a sign of damaged skin.
Protect your children
Children have delicate skin that is easily damaged by excessive heat.
Just like adults, the same protective measures are recommended for children. However, in children younger than six months, sunlight should be avoided at all costs. And when it’s unavoidable, stay in shades, put on protective clothes and sunscreen.
Swim shirts, rash guards and other protective clothes reduce the amount of sunscreen you should apply. When the need arises, use a sunscreen with zinc oxide and titanium oxide. And keep your loved ones off tanning beds.
Dangers of indoor tanning
It’s worrying how many people don’t think twice before using a tanning bed despite countless research showing how indoor tanning beds damage the skin.
Tanning beds should be avoided at all costs. In fact, the World Health Organization counts tanning beds as carcinogens because they increase the risk of developing skin cancer. In just a single use, the risk of melanoma is increased by nearly 80%, and this is the reason for the sudden spike in the incidence and fatalities in young adults.
Indoor tanning devices can cause all types of skin cancers – both melanoma and nonmelanoma skin cancers. The risk is significantly higher if the user is under the age of 35.
Moreover, indoor tanning harms in more ways. It also:
- Is harmful to your eyes
- Suppresses your immune system
- Damages skin leading to wrinkling and faster than normal ageing
- Can lead to sunburns and skin rashes
Know the early signs of skin cancer
Skin cancer, if diagnosed early, increases the chances of successful treatment. The most lethal of all is melanoma which rapidly moves to advanced stages and spread further.
The first sign of cancer in men and women in most cases appears on their trunk and legs, respectively. We recommend you regularly check your skin for blemishes, rashes, or moles on that seem to be getting bigger, develop an itch, bleed even on minor injuries, or any new symptom.
You should know your skin through and through.
Here are some signs you should learn; most are early warning signs for easy diagnosis of melanoma:
- Asymmetry: The mole is not a uniform circle.
- Border irregularity: The margin is rugged, faded, or notched.
- Color: The mole doesn’t have solid colors. One spot is tan, brown, red, white, blue, or black, different from the other side. The color may creep onto healthy skin and can give the mole an inconspicuous margin.
- Diameter: A mole more massive than 6 millimeters (0.2 in.), about the size of a coin.
- Evolution: The mole keeps changing shape, size, color, and symptoms (for instance easily bleed, itch, or swell into a lump).
We also recommend you follow the “ugly duckling” rule, meaning that if a mole doesn’t look like all other moles on your skin, your “ugly duckling” needs to be examined by a dermatologist even if it quacks and walks like a duck.
Get to know your skin
The silver lining about cancer is that early detection improves the prognosis. You have a good chance of spotting precancerous changes before it’s too late!
- By now you could say it’s a cliché but still: examine your skin at least each month. Know your moles and birthmarks. Remember that missing changes on your skin could mean a very late diagnosis when the cancer is already terminal.
- Report to a dermatologist any injury that took long to heal as this could be a developing malignancy.
- Regular health checkups by your doctor will have to have the baseline condition for your skin makes it easier to diagnose cancer.
- Your doctor must assess all moles, sores, or pimples and lumps that look suspicious.
People who are at higher risk of developing skin cancer need to get annual checkups by their doctor or dermatologist. The risk of cancer is higher if you have a lot of moles, had a history of skin cancer, or relatives had melanoma, fair-skinned individuals with plenty sun exposure, tanning bed use, or have a weaker immune system because of chronic disease, therapy or organ transplant.