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Skin Cancer

How Can Skin Cancer Be Prevented?

Friday, June 29, 2012 - 13:20

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

The most important preventive measure is to avoid excessive exposure to the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation in sunlight damages the genetic material DNA in skin cell genes. This increases the risk that a normal cell will start growing abnormally and become cancerous. UV rays also damage the structure of the skin in ways that cause premature skin aging and wrinkling.

Prevention must begin in childhood. That's because most people get about 50% of their lifetime sun exposure before age 18.

Need To Know:

Practical measures to prevent skin cancer include:

  • Staying out of the sun, especially between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the strongest UV rays reach Earth's surface.
  • Avoiding both direct sunlight, and sunlight reflected from water, sand and snow. It also can damage the skin.
  • Shielding the skin with tightly knit clothing. Long-sleeved garments made from light fabric can protect the skin in summer and yet be cool and comfortable. Hats with broad brims can shield the face.
  • Using sunscreen. Pick a sunscreen that provides "broad spectrum" protection against both kinds of UV radiation in sunlight, UVA and UVB.

People with close relatives who developed malignant melanoma may have inherited a damaged gene that increases their risk. For them, preventive measures and regular skin exams can be especially important.

How-To Information:

How to do a skin self-exam

Your chances of finding skin cancer can be improved by performing a regular simple skin test.

  • A good time for doing this self-exam would be right after a bath or shower.
  • The room should be well lighted, with a full length mirror and a hand held mirror.
  • Learn where your birthmarks, blemishes and moles are and what they look like.
  • Be aware of anything new, such as a change in size, color, texture or a sore that does not heal.
  • If you see any unusual changes, contact your dermatologist. These changes don't necessarily mean skin cancer, but get them checked out just to ease your mind.

Check your entire body, not just the readily visible areas. This check should include the back, the scalp, between the buttocks, and the genital area. This should take no more than 15 minutes.

  1. Look at the front and back of your body in the mirror, then raise your arms and look at the left and right sides.
  2. Bend your elbows and look carefully at your palms; forearms, including the undersides; and the upper arms.
  3. Examine the back and front of your legs. Also look between your buttocks and around your genital area.
  4. Sit and closely examine your feet, including the soles and the spaces between the toes.
  5. Look at your face, neck and scalp. You may want to use a comb or a blow dryer to move hair so that you can see better.

By checking your skin regularly, you will become familiar with what is normal. If you find anything unusual, see your doctor right away. Remember, the earlier skin cancer is found, the better the chance for cure.

Skin Cancer