The Most Common Cancer and Highly Preventable
Skin cancer can affect anyone at any time in the year, regardless of their skin color, gender or age. Even though it is the most common cancer in the United States, it is highly preventable and can be avoided by taking extra precautions when you are out in the sun.
There is no recommended time asymptomatic individuals—people not showing symptoms of skin cancer—should be screened. However, according to the U.S. Preventative Services Task Force, someone with a personal history of skin cancer should take sun precautions, use sunscreen and do self-checks and be proactive with getting their skin examined by their primary care physician when concerns arise.
“Skin cancer is identified in various ways,” says family medicine specialist Arthur W. Morrow, D.O. “Usually a visual exam is done by a qualified practitioner. And if needed, they will use an exam tool called a dermascope to magnify the skin, biopsy or remove any suspicious lesions they find.”
Skin cancer screening involves a visual exam of the skin on your whole body, especially sun-exposed parts. “For discretion and to protect the privacy of our patients, we provide them with a gown for the exam,” Dr. Morrow says. “The exam can be fairly quick and painless.”
Skin cancer screening is vital in identifying various types of skin cancers, some of which if left untreated, like melanoma, can lead to death. “If you have a fair complexion, use indoor tanning beds or have a history of sunburns or previous skin cancer, you are at a higher risk for developing skin cancers,” Dr. Morrow says.
Specific risk factors for melanoma include having atypical—abnormal—moles, multiple moles and a family history of melanoma. Your risk of developing melanoma also increases with age, according to Dr. Morrow. “Darker, changing moles are usually, but not always, more worrisome,” he says. “If you are seeing changes and/or are concerned, call your primary care practitioner to make an appointment right away to be screened.”
Prevent skin cancer by following these guidelines:
- Do not allow your skin to burn.
- Avoid tanning and tanning beds.
- Seeks hade or stay inside, especially between 10a.m. and 4p.m.
- Use sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher daily.For outdoor activities, use water-resistance sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.
- Examine your body from head-to-toe every month.
- Apply sunscreen to your whole body 30 minutes beforegoing outside, and reapply every two hours and immediately after swimming or excessive sweating.
- Cover up by using UV-blocking sunglasses,large hats and clothing.
- Sunscreen should be used on babies six months and older. Newborns need to be kept out of the sun.
- Make an appointment with your physician yearly for a professional skin assessment, or ask your physician to check your skin during your annual physical exam.
- Arthur W. Morrow, D.O.
- Family Medicine
- Lee Health Florida State University Family Medicine Residency Program
- 2780 Cleveland Ave.
- Suite 709
- Fort Myers, FL 33901
Tags: Dermatology, Cancer Care, Cancer Screening, Skin Cancer, Regional Cancer Center