Skin cancer statistics
Skin cancer can be deadly and is on the rise. Non-melanoma skin cancer is the most common malignancy in the U.S. affecting more than 3 million people of all skin colors every year. One in five people over the age of 70 will develop skin cancer.
Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads and is easily treated and cured if caught early. If not, it can spread to muscle, bone and lymph and can be disfiguring. Most squamous cell carcinoma affects the skin and nearby tissues; but when it spreads to other parts of the body, it can be fatal. More than 7200 adults die every year from melanoma. When melanoma is detected and treated before it spreads the five-year survival rate is 99%.
The damaging rays of the sun
According to www.skincancer.org, about 90% of non-melanoma skin cancer and 86% of melanomas are associated with exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays (UV). UV exposure damages the skin’s DNA which can skin cancer. Sun damage is cumulative and increases your lifetime risk of skin cancer. Even one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence doubles the risk of developing melanoma.
Skin cancer prevention
- Avoid the sun from 10-4pm daily
- Avoid tanning which is also a sign of sun damage
- Choose a sun screen labeled ” Broad Spectrum” which means it protects against UVA and UVB light and is water resistant
- Cover up. Wear a hat and long sleeves, and sunglasses that block UV rays.
- Seek shade
- Perform monthly self-exams
- Get an annual screening
- Eat a healthy diet that contains foods high in antioxidants that can help to prevent skin cancer. These antioxidants have been shown to prevent skin cancer- Vitamins C, E and A, zinc, selenium, beta carotene, omega 3 fatty acids, lycopene and polyphenols.
- A recent development is the finding that common skin cancers and precancerous lesions can be prevented with the use of a Vitamin B3 supplement called nicotinamide. Studies show that taking a nicotinamide supplement twice a day cut the rate of new squamous cell and basal cell cancers by 23% in people at high risk for skin cancer.
- Studies show drinking one or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily can reduce your risk for melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
- Keep newborns out of the sun. Use a physical sunscreen made for babies, only after six months of age.
- Some topical and oral medications cause sun sensitivity and increase your risk for sunburn.
How to select the best sunscreen
Sunscreen can prevent sunburn and photoaging, age spots, melasma, and dark spots left after acne and psoriasis, and reduce your risk for skin cancer. The best sun protection is from a product that offers an SPF 30 or higher, is broad-spectrum and water resistant. Apply on all exposed skin. Reapply after swimming or water sports.
Chemical sunscreen or physical sunscreen?
A chemical sun screen is absorbed into the skin and works by absorbing the UV rays and converting them to heat which is released by the skin. A physical sunblock deflects the sun’s rays. It contains zinc oxide or titanium oxide and is gentle enough that it can be used on children. If you have rosacea, use a physical sunscreen only. A combination of both types offers the best protection.
Dr. Sedrak is a board-certified, fellowship trained dermatologist and MOHs surgeon. At the Texas Skin Cancer Center with offices in Houston, Kingwood and Sugarland, Texas you will always receive private, respectful and compassionate care in a state-of-the-art facility. When you have concerns about your skin, contact the Texas Skin Cancer Center to schedule a consultation.