For most of us, summer is a time to focus on fun: vacations, graduations, parties, and more. But in the world of dermatology, summer is also the time of year when skin cancer is always at the back of our minds. Between the sun’s strength and the amount of time most people spend outdoors in the summer, it’s a recipe for some serious skin damage.
Skin cancer isn’t a new concept. However, most people don’t worry about it when they’re younger. They know that it’s caused by sun damage that builds up over time and assume they won’t need to worry about it until they’re at least middle-aged. Unfortunately, this is changing, and skin cancer is affecting more and more young people. In fact, between 1973 and 2011, the rate of melanoma in young adults, teens, and kids has risen by over 250%. The sharpest increase was seen in patients between the ages of 15 and 29.
Not only are more young people getting skin cancer, but they’re getting the most aggressive type of skin cancer as well. There are three primary types of skin cancer: basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. The type of cancer depends on the type of skin cell in which the cancer has developed. While melanoma is normally the rarest of these three, it’s the most aggressive. It’s also the most common form of cancer for people between the ages of 25 and 29 and the second most common form of cancer for people between the ages of 15 and 29.
What You Can Do About Skin Cancer
It’s rare for young patients to visit us for routine skin cancer screenings because they don’t usually realize that they’re at risk. As the statistics above point out, though, skin cancer is a serious risk that every teen and young adult should be on the lookout for.
To reduce your risk of skin cancer, try these important tips:
- Wear sunscreen daily, even when you won’t spend time outside, because even indirect sunlight can cause sun damage. For optimal protection, follow these guidelines:
- Use SPF 30 or higher.
- Use “broad-spectrum” or “UVA & UVB” blocking sunscreen. If a sunscreen doesn’t feature one of these terms, it may only protect you against some types of sun damage.
- Reapply your sunscreen every two hours or more frequently if you’re sweating or swimming.
- Apply your sunscreen 15 minutes before you go outside because it needs time to start working at its peak.
- Wear sunglasses to protect the delicate skin around your eyes from sun damage. Look for sunglasses that block 99% of UV rays.
- If you’re planning to spend a lot of time outside, wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your facial skin. It’s also best to wear long-sleeved and long-legged clothing with a tight weave to block the sun, but look for lightweight fabrics so you stay comfortable. Some items of clothing are even made to be especially protective of the sun, and these will list a UPF rating, which is similar to the SPF ratings you see on sunscreen.
- Ideally, avoid spending time in the sun between 10am and 4pm.
- Visit a dermatologist or dermatological physician assistant every year for a skin cancer screening. This should be routine for everyone in your family, from kids through senior citizens. While this won’t prevent you from getting skin cancer, it will allow you to get a faster diagnosis and a greater chance for successful treatment if you do get cancer. Through August 2018, you can even get a discount on select sunscreens when you get your skin cancer screening at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta. Check out our skin care special offers for more details.
- Never use a tanning bed. These are believed to be a major culprit behind the increasing melanoma rates for young people.
- Perform monthly self-exams at home, reviewing your skin for any changes. Take a close look at any moles you have and check whether they’ve grown or changed. If you have kids, you should do these exams at home each month.
The recent statistics about skin cancer are scary to think about, but the good news is that you can do something about it. Half of the battle is knowing that you’re at risk in the first place, and the other half is following the prevention tips above to keep that risk to a minimum. If you’re ready to take a step toward protecting your health, schedule a skin cancer screening at Dermatology Associates of Atlanta. For more helpful skin care tips, follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Google+.