Updated: Jun 19, 2022
May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Prevention and Detection month. Skin cancer is the most common kind of cancer in the U.S. One in five Americans will get skin cancer and currently, 13 million Americans have a history of non-melanoma skin cancer and almost 800,000 have a history of melanoma- the most dangerous type of skin cancer. But the good news is that almost all cases of skin cancer can be cured when found and treated early.
Skin cancer is highly preventable because it is mainly a lifestyle disease, meaning it is affected by your lifestyle. Most skin cancers are caused from ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun- about 65% of melanoma and 90% of non-melanoma cases. The more you are exposed and unprotected from the sun, the higher your risk for skin cancer. So, let’s change your lifestyle and reduce your risk!
Here are some tips to reduce your risk of skin cancer and melanoma:
1) Wear a sunscreen of SPF 15 or higher. Apply it 30 minutes before going out into the sun and reapply regularly.
2) Limit your time in the sun. This includes avoiding the sun from 10:00am to 2:00pm when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
3) Cover your skin. Wear long sleeves, thick clothing, and hats to protect yourself from the sun’s damaging rays.
4) Check your skin. Use the ABCDE’s to check your skin. You may notice some changes in your skin, but also have a doctor do a full body skin check. It is possible to get skin cancer in places that are not exposed to the sun. While dark skinned people have lower tendencies of skin cancer, melanoma is still a threat. No matter your skin type, please get checked annually. One tip for those who paint their toenails - remove your toenail polish at least once a month to make sure you do not have skin cancer beneath your nails.
5) Do not burn. Your risk for melanoma doubles if you have had 5 or more sunburns in your life.
6) Avoid tanning and tanning booths. Visiting a tanning booth just 4 times a year increases your risk for melanoma by 11% and for basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma (the two most common forms of skin cancer) by 15%. If you want that tanned look, go to a spray booth.
Nutritional Tips to Help Protect Against Skin Cancer and Melanoma:
1) Get your daily dose of carotenoids. Carotenoids are a group of fat soluble nutrients that are responsible for the colors in fruits and veggies such as carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, broccoli, mangoes, tomatoes and other deep green, yellow, orange and red produce. Your daily dose of carotenoids can protect you from UV light exposure and protect against melanoma.
2) Reduce your alcohol consumption. Many studies have shown that people who drink two or more alcoholic beverages a week have an increased risk of melanoma.
3) Drink your daily coffee. Some studies have shown that each cup of caffeinated coffee reduces our risk of non-melanoma skin cancer by 5%. The antioxidants found in coffee could help protect your skin. The relationship may also depend on the fact that most people who drink multiple cups of coffee tend to stay indoors more.
Hopefully these tips will help you protect yourself from skin cancer. Remember, skin cancer is a lifestyle disease and these changes can help! But, do not just protect yourself, protect friends and family as well!