Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the United States. In fact, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AAD), about 9,500 people nationwide are diagnosed every day. So, if you've developed skin cancer before, you're far from alone. That said, you do need to be extra careful about sun safety post-recovery, as you're at a higher risk of developing it again.
The good news is there are many things you can do to protect yourself and keep your skin healthy. Read on to learn skin cancer risk factors, how to stay safe after a diagnosis, and why skin checks with a board-certified Dermatologist can be life-saving.
Understanding Skin Cancer Risk Factors
The three most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma. Skin cancer is easy to treat and cure if caught early, but prevention is key. It's important to understand all of the risk factors of skin cancer to know how to properly protect yourself. The most common include the following:
- A personal history of skin cancer
- A family history of skin cancer
- Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun or tanning beds
- A history of sunburns
- Fair skin that burns easily or doesn't tan
- Certain medical conditions or medications that suppress the immune system
Practicing Sun Safety After Skin Cancer Recovery
Having a personal or family history of skin cancer is the most significant risk factor for developing new and recurrent skin cancers. Sun safety protocols are generally the same whether you've had skin cancer before or not, but they're all the more important to follow post-recovery.
Here's how to protect your skin and keep cancer from returning.
1. Commit to Daily Sunscreen and Reapply Often
Find a sunscreen product you love, like the light and airy EltaMD UV Sheer Broad-Spectrum SPF 50+ and commit to wearing it every day—and reapplying at least every two hours.
2. Limit Your UV Exposure—That Includes Tanning Beds
If you've had skin cancer, you don't have to hide from the sun forever, but you do need to be careful about soaking up some rays. Avoid the sun during peak times (typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and stay away from tanning beds. The AAD states that just one indoor tanning session increases your risk of developing melanoma by 20%, squamous cell carcinoma by 67%, and basal cell carcinoma by 29%. Those numbers are even higher for skin cancer survivors.
3. Keep Exposed Skin Covered
Your skin is sensitive when you're in recovery from skin cancer, and UV rays are not your friend during this time. Keep any exposed skin covered from UV radiation with a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, and sun-protective clothing. Stick to shady spots or take breaks out of the sun when you can.
4. Get Regular Skin Checks
When you visit a Dermatologist, they'll perform a skin check to look for signs of skin cancer, taking note of any moles or spots on your skin. Depending on your risk factors, you may need one or more Dermatologist appointments per year. In between visits, you should check and monitor your own skin. Keep an eye on anything that looks concerning or different, and remember that melanoma can grow very quickly. Examine your skin using a handheld mirror; it may feel silly at first, but skin checks save lives.
You beat skin cancer already; now, you and your skin deserve to be happy and healthy. This disease is a serious threat, but with the proper protection, you can get back to living life freely.