How Can You Prevent Melanoma
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How Effective Is Sunscreen
Sunscreens such as lotions or sprays can prevent sunburn if you reapply them often enough. This is important because sunburn is painful, damages the skin, and is associated with a higher risk of skin cancer.
But it’s not quite clear whether sunscreen can also protect you from skin cancer. Studies suggest that squamous cell carcinoma is less common in people who use sunscreen. But using sunscreen hasn’t yet been shown to prevent the more dangerous type of skin cancer known as melanoma or the more common basal cell carcinoma. Most of the studies in this area don’t include information about important factors such as the skin type of the participants. In some studies, the participants were only asked how often they used sunscreen in the past. But it’s almost impossible to remember how often and how well you used sunscreen years or even decades ago.
Most of the studies also used older sunscreens that had no UVA filters and relatively low sun protection factors . There is even less research on newer lotions that have a higher SPF and a UVA filter.
But relying only on sunscreen has one definite drawback: It is difficult to check how much protection you have. You can’t easily tell whether you have applied enough sunscreen everywhere or whether it has worn off. And people who use sunscreen may be less likely to protect themselves from the sun in other, more effective, ways.
Protect Children From The Sun
Children need special attention, since they tend to spend more time outdoors and can burn more easily. Parents and other caregivers should protect children from excess sun exposure by using the steps above. Children need to be taught about the dangers of too much sun exposure as they become more independent.
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What Sun Protection Factor Do You Need
A sunscreens sun protection factor indicates how long it can protect you from UVB radiation and sunburn. Whether or not a sun lotion also filters out UVA radiation is shown separately, for instance in the form of a small circle with the letters UVA inside it. Sunscreens that offer protection from both UVA and UVB rays are the best at preventing sunburn.
Your skin can protect itself from UVB radiation for a certain amount of time. The SPF lets you know how much longer you can safely stay in the sun by putting on the lotion. To find this out, you multiply the SPF by the length of time you have natural protection. For example:
If you have skin type I, your skin naturally provides up to 10 minutes of protection. Using a lotion with SPF 15 means that the maximum time you will be protected is 10 x 15 minutes, which is 2.5 hours.
It is somewhat simpler to use the SPF categories shown on sunscreen products. They divide the level of UVB protection into four basic categories:
How Can I Prevent Skin Cancer
The best way to prevent skin cancer seems to be to limit your exposure to intense sunlight, to wear protective clothing such as hats and shirts, and, perhaps, to apply sunscreen and avoid tanning facilities. Although the effectiveness of these practices has not been evaluated in clinical trials, both malignant melanomas and nonmelanomatous skin cancers have been linked to exposure to the sun.
Here are a few helpful tips for protecting yourself from the suns harmful rays:
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There Are Several Types Of Skin Cancer
The most common types of skin cancer are squamous cell carcinoma, which forms in the squamous cells and basal cell carcinoma, which forms in the basal cells. Squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma are also called nonmelanoma skin cancers. Melanoma, which forms in the melanocytes, is a less common type of skin cancer that grows and spreads quickly.
Skin cancer can occur anywhere on the body, but it is most common in areas exposed to sunlight, such as the face, neck, hands, and arms.
Questions To Ask The Doctor
- How far has the melanoma spread under my skin?
- Has it spread anywhere else?
- What treatment do you think is best for me?
- Whats the goal of this treatment? Do you think it could cure the cancer?
- Will treatment include surgery? If so, who will do the surgery?
- What will the surgery be like?
- Will I need other types of treatment, too?
- Whats the goal of these treatments?
- What side effects could I have from these treatments?
- What can I do about side effects that I might have?
- Is there a clinical trial that might be right for me?
- What about special vitamins or diets that friends tell me about? How will I know if they are safe?
- How soon do I need to start treatment?
- What should I do to be ready for treatment?
- Is there anything I can do to help the treatment work better?
- Whats the next step?
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Other Symptoms Of Melanoma
Other signs and symptoms that may be melanoma include:
- A mole that itches or is sore.
- A mole that oozes, bleeds, or becomes crusty.
- A mole that looks different from your other moles.
- A sore that doesn’t heal.
- A mole or sore becomes red or swells at its edges or beyond.
Become familiar with the way your moles look so you will know if theyre changing. Take note of any new moles that appear on your skin. Self-monitoring of moles and other markings on the skin helps with detecting melanoma and other skin cancers early.
Tips To Reduce Your Risk For Melanoma:
- Never Intentionally Expose Your Skin to the Sun. There is no such thing as a ‘healthy’ tan.
- Wear Sunscreen. Make sunscreen a daily habit. UV radiation can still damage skin even in the winter and on cloudy days. Use broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of at least 30. Learn more about sunscreen here.
- Wear Protective Clothing. Protect your body with sun-protective clothing, hat, and sunglasses. Learn more about protective clothing here.
- Avoid Peak Rays. Seek shade during the mid-day sun, when the suns rays are most intense. Learn more about the UV Index here.
- Dont Use Tanning Beds. Indoor tanning has been shown to increase the risk of melanoma by up to 75%. Melanoma is one of the top three cancers diagnosed in young adults , and scientists attribute this trend to the use of tanning beds among this age group, particularly young women.
- Protect Children. Children are particularly vulnerable to damage from UV rays. Just one bad sunburn in childhood or adolescence doubles your childs chances of developing melanoma later in life.
In addition to practicing these sun safe habits, learn how to detect melanoma at its earliest stages, when it is most treatable, here.
- About Melanoma
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What Are The Different Types Of Skin Cancer
When skin cancer develops, the type of cells it affects determines what kind of cancer it is. For example:
- Skin cancer that develops in the basal cells is known as basal cell carcinoma. Its the most common form of skin cancer and is also the slowest growing.
- Skin cancer that develops in the squamous cells is known as squamous cell carcinoma. It often shows up as red, scaly lesions or sores on the skin. This type of skin cancer usually isnt life threatening, but it can become dangerous if its left untreated.
- Skin cancer that develops in the melanocytes is called melanoma. This is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. Its more likely to spread than basal and squamous cell skin cancers. It causes the majority of skin cancer deaths each year.
While some types of skin cancer have a genetic component, there are a lot of things you can do to prevent skin cancer from developing.
The Braf Gene Mutation And Melanoma
Roughly half of all documented melanoma cases present with mutations in the BRAF gene. The melanoma cells that have these changes create a BRAF protein, which aids them in their growth. If a person with the BRAF gene mutation has melanoma, knowing about the mutation is of great benefit for treatment because healthcare providers can use targeted therapy to inhibit the BRAF gene mutation from aiding in the growth of the cancer.
If a diagnosis of melanoma is already established, the healthcare provider will look at two factors to determine how advanced a stage 4 melanoma has become: the location of the distant tumors and an elevated level of serum lactate dehydrogenase , which is an enzyme responsible for turning sugar into energy. The higher the LDH level in body fluids, the more damage the cancer has done.
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Cover Up With Long Sleeves
Clothes are a simple barrier to the sun. But they canât protect what they donât cover. Also, light, loosely woven fabrics wonât protect you as well as tighter, thicker fabrics like denim. Some specialized clothes have a UPF number that, like SPF in sunscreen, shows how well it blocks sunlight.
See Your Doctor Yearly
Visits to dermatologists or family doctors are too often reserved for illness or painful emergencies. Instead of waiting for problems to pop up, arrange to see your doctor every year so they can take a close look at your skin and check your moles against their records. Point out any changes youve seen yourself, and if your doctor isnt concerned about these spots, ask why the better you know what to look for and which growths are likely nothing to worry about, the better youll be able to spot and act on dangerous skin changes in the future.
Its impossible to know for sure who will contract this dangerous disease, but there are some skin cancer screening measures that can uncover an issue before you show any visible signs of a problem. Ask your doctor whether your specific risk factors, history of sun exposure, and current skin health makes you a good candidate for cancer screening. Since there are some risks involved in arbitrary screening, your doctor will want to make sure your particular case warrants a deeper look at this moment.
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Slather On The Sunscreen
Sunscreen is an essential part of any sun-protection strategy.
It is not sufficient on its own, however: Some UV rays still get through.
Even a sunscreen with a high SPF doesnt mean you can safely stay outside in the sun longer, use less, or reapply less frequently.
Look for sunscreens with broad spectrum protection, meaning they block both UVA and UVB rays. The Skin Care Foundation recommends SPF 15 and higher the American Cancer Society advocates SPF 30 and up.
The SPF number on the bottle indicates the amount of protection against UVB rays the kind that causes sunburn. An SPF 15 sunscreen filters out 93 percent of UVB rays an SPF 30, about 97 percent.
An adult needs about one ounce of sunscreen to cover the arms, legs, neck, and face. Reapply every two hours or more frequently if youve been swimming or sweating heavily.
Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before UV exposure to allow it to fully bind to the skin.
Sunscreen is safe for babies after the age of 6 months. Before then, keep infants out of direct sunlight, covering them with hats and protective clothing.
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Protect Yourself With A Complete Approach
UV radiation from the sun isnt just dangerous, its also sneaky. Not only can it cause premature aging and skin cancer, it reaches you even when youre trying to avoid it penetrating clouds and glass, and bouncing off of snow, water and sand. Whats more, sun damage accumulates over the years, from prolonged outdoor exposure to simple activities like walking the dog, going from your car to the store and bringing in the mail.
Thats why preventing skin cancer by protecting yourself completely requires a comprehensive approach. The Skin Cancer Foundation recommends that you:
- Seek the shade, especially between 10 AM and 4 PM.
- Dont get sunburned.
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Ask Your Doc About Sun
If you frequently eat nutrient-rich produce in a wide array of colors, youre already providing your body with lots of supportive vitamins and minerals. But some supplements might help kick your skin protection up a little bit.
Dr. Herman says that research currently supports two supplements. The first is Heliocare, which contains a plant extract called Polypodium leucotomos extract that may help protect your skin from free radicals. Then, theres niacin , which may reduce the risk of squamous-cell and basal-cell skin cancers. Before trying a new supplement, talk to your dermatologist to see if it make sense for you.
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What Am I Looking For During These Self
- Assymetry: – Draw an imaginary line through your mole. Do both sides look alike? If not, see your doctor.
- Border: – Look at the outside edge of your mole. Are its edges sharp and easy to distinguish from surrounding skin? If the edges look ragged or fuzzy, see your doctor.
- Color: – Check the color of your mole. Is it the same throughout or does it vary with shades of dark brown, black, white, red or blue? If it isn’t the same color throughout, see your doctor.
- Difference: – Have your moles changed in size, shape or color? Are they suddenly itchy? Most moles on a person’s body share a common look did you find one that looks different than the others? Do you have a new, changing mole or suspicious looking patch of skin? Any time you notice a difference in moles or on other parts of your skin, see your doctor.
for pictures and descriptions of exactly what you should be looking for.
How Do You Put On Lotion Properly
Putting on sun lotion sounds like a simple enough thing to do. But many people dont put it on properly, or might not be sure when to use it, how much to use, or how often they should reapply it. It is also important to choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor that is right for your skin type and offers enough protection.
Sunscreen is only effective if it is applied generously. If used correctly, an adult will be able to use a 200 ml bottle of sun lotion to cover their entire body six times before it runs out.
When you put on sun lotion it’s important to remember every part of your skin that is exposed to the sun. It is easy to forget areas like your ears or feet, and some people dont like asking for help with areas like their back. Lotions can wear off if you sweat, get wet or dry yourself off with a towel, leaving you with less protection. Even products labeled as waterproof aren’t 100 percent waterproof and may be rubbed off. So it’s a good idea to keep reapplying sunscreen about every two hours. You could use a reminder, for instance using your cell phone. But a sunscreens maximum protection time can’t be extended by putting on several layers of it in one go.
It’s also important to put on sunscreen before you go out and not wait until youve already been in the sun for a while. Most sunscreens start working immediately after you put them on. Some products take about 20 to 30 minutes before they offer protection.
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What Are The Risk Factors For Skin Cancer
Anyone can get skin cancer, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines several characteristics that can put people at a greater risk:
- Lighter natural skin color
- Certain types of moles or a large number of moles
- A family or personal history of skin cancer
- Older age
Dawn Holman, MPH, a behavioral scientist in epidemiology and applied research at the CDCs division of cancer prevention and control, stresses that even though risk factors are higher in people with fair skin, people with all skin types are susceptible to skin cancer and can benefit from sun protection and staying alert to changes in their skin.
When Melanoma Spreads To The Skin And Lymph Nodes
If melanoma spreads, theres a 50/50 chance that it will spread first to other areas of your skin or to the lymph nodes near your original melanoma.
Signs that it has spread to skin or to areas just under your skin can include hard bumps that crack open and bleed. The bumps may be black or red. You may also have firm, painless lumps under your skin. Sometimes they are skin-colored other times theyre bluish in color.
If melanoma spreads to a lymph node, you may notice a firm, hard swelling. If a swollen lymph node presses on a nerve, the lymph node may be painful. If melanoma blocks a lymph vessel, fluid can build up behind that area. This causes swelling, a condition known as . You may feel a tight or heavy sensation in the swollen area.
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