As temperatures rise and the days last longer, it’s time to make protecting your skin a priority. While the sun’s rays are a year-round threat, they’re especially powerful during the summer. You’ll want to use every tool at your disposal to keep you and your loved ones protected.
If you want to prevent melanoma and other forms of skin cancer, start by knowing the risk factors. Ultraviolet light, moles, skin and hair type, and family history can all play a role in developing the disease. Prevention will involve reducing time spent in direct sunlight, keeping an eye on moles, and protecting your immune system.
Risk factors are anything that can increase your chances of developing a disease. Some factors can be changed while others, unfortunately, are not.
Understanding your risk factors can help you understand which precautions you should be taking. For instance, while everyone should be leery of UV rays during the summer, not everyone will have a lot of moles on their skin.
Ultraviolet (UV) Radiation
UV radiation from the sun may be the greatest risk factor for melanoma and other types of skin cancer. These rays can actually damage the genes (DNA) inside your skin cells, causing cancer to develop.
Most people have a non-cancerous mole or two. People are rarely born with them and they tend to develop in childhood and young adulthood. Most existing moles are no cause for alarm. However, having a lot of moles can increase your chances of developing melanoma. Early detection is key if you have this particular risk factor.
Light Skin, Hair, and Freckling
Light-skinned people are at much higher risk than people with darker skin. This is especially true if you have:
- Red or blonde hair
- Blue or green eyes
- Fair skin with freckles
- Skin that burns easily
If you have any of these physical attributes then you should be especially careful during the summer when the sun’s rays are at their strongest.
Like other types of cancer, skin cancers like melanoma can be genetic with around 10% of patients having a family history. But it’s not always a matter of genetics. Family-related melanoma can sometimes be the result of a family lifestyle involving increased sun exposure, fair skin, or a combination of factors.
Other Risk Factors
There are other risk factors that can increase your risk of melanoma. These include:
- A personal history of melanoma or other skin cancers
- Having a weakened immune system
A personal history of melanoma increases your chances of getting it again, as well as having basal cell or squamous cell carcinoma. A weakened immune system can make it harder to fight off cancer cells.
Most cases of skin cancer appear in people over the age of 50. However, melanoma is the most common form of cancer in people below the age of 30. Sex can have varying impacts on your risks. For instance, males tend to develop melanoma at a higher rate than females after age 50, but females are at a greater risk before age 50.
Melanoma prevention can be broken down into three categories — limiting UV exposure, checking for new moles or skin growths, and protecting your immune system. These tips can help reduce your risk of developing skin cancer as well as catching it in its early stage.
Reduce Your UV Exposure
Taking advantage of whatever sun protection you have at your disposal is one of the best steps toward protecting your skin. Avoid long-term direct sunlight and stick to the shade when the sun is at its strongest, and use the Slip! Slop! Slap!…and Wrap method whenever you’re in the sun.
- Slipping on a shirt
- Slopping on sunscreen
- Slapping on a hat
- Wrapping on sunglasses
It’s also important to understand that the sun isn’t the only source of UV light. Artificial UV light from tanning beds and lamps can also increase your risk.
Check Your Skin for Changes
Some moles have a higher chance of becoming cancerous than others. Your doctor will be the best judge of cancerous and non-cancerous moles based on how they look. They’ll want to keep a close eye on them for any changes that might indicate melanoma. Routine exams from your dermatologist along with self-exams are essential.
Surgical removal of moles isn’t usually necessary for preventing melanoma since most cases don’t develop that way. Have new moles or changing moles examined by your dermatologist for signs of melanoma.
Protect Your Immune System
A weakened immune system can allow cancerous cells to develop in your skin cells. Sometimes this can be the result of a virus, such as HIV, which weakens your immune system. On the other hand, you may be taking medicine to suppress your immune system for an organ transplant. Other treatments such as chemotherapy can also weaken your immune system.
In the latter cases, the benefits can far outweigh the risk of skin cancer. However, you should still talk to your doctor if it’s a concern. They’ll be able to give you advice on how to protect yourself through your treatment. For more prevention tips from us, check out What You Should Know About Melanoma Prevention This Summer.
Skin Cancer Treatment in Evansville, IN
At Evansville Surgical Associates, we treat a variety of cancers including melanoma and other skin cancers. Our team of board-certified surgeons includes Dr. Andrea L. Jester, who has a special interest in oncology. Our practice has over 50 years of experience serving the tri-state area, so you know you’ll be in good hands when you choose Evansville Surgical Associates.
It’s important to know the risk factors for melanoma and other skin cancers in order to understand how to prevent them. Exposure to UV radiation, your skin and hair type, and even your family history can all play a role in your risk of developing the disease. To help prevent melanoma, you should avoid spending too much time in the sun, pay attention to changes in your skin, and protect your immune system.
Do you want to learn your options for melanoma treatment and other cancers? Call us today at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231 to schedule your appointment!
Evansville Surgical Associates has been providing comprehensive and compassionate surgical care for over 50 years. Call us at (812) 424-8231 or (800) 264-8231. We are available from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm if you would like to schedule an appointment.