From Women’s Health to Self, skin cancer has been in the news a lot this summer. And it’s no wonder- skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the Unites States, affecting 1 in 5 people (skincancer.org). Today I’m going to tell you how to reduce your risk of skin cancer- and the best part is that it takes only 5 minutes a day… with an extra 1 hour time commitment once a year.
The 5 Minutes
I do give people credit for wearing sunscreen if they’re out in the sun for awhile. But the actual recommendation (and what I tell every one of my patients) is to wear SPF 30 every day. Every. Single. Day. The easiest thing to do is get a moisturizer with SPF 30 and cover your face and arms first thing in the morning. This will protect you from the intermittent sun you’re exposed to while running errands during the day. And yes, you should reapply at lunch, although I’ll admit even I’m not that good most days. Total time for two applications of sunscreen- 5 minutes!
The 1 Hour
Once a year, go to your plastic surgeon or dermatologist and have him or her check you for skin cancer. Just like going to the dentist or getting your oil changed, this is a regular maintenance thing. Is it fun? No. Is it important? Absolutely! Getting a yearly skin exam means your doctor can spot many skin cancers while they’re small and easy to treat. And wouldn’t you rather have a small scar, or even avoid developing skin cancer altogether?
So who should you see? Many people don’t realize that both plastic surgeons and dermatologists treat skin cancer. We both see a lot of skin. If you have many, many moles or age spots, or a history of melanoma, then a dermatologist may be a better option. Dermatologists are often able to look at suspicious areas using dermatoscopy, which allows them to better diagnose melanoma without a biopsy. But both types of doctors can remove precancerous areas and biopsy suspicious areas. The most thing is that you find a doctor you are comfortable with, and see him or her every year for a skin exam. If you have a history of tanning or sunburns as a child, you should start this in your 20s.
And that’s it- sunscreen every day, and a skin exam every year can keep a small problem from turning into a big one.